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The Art of Drowning

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
by Billy Collins. Another book from the teetering pile. Can you believe this is the biggest picture I could find? It's been a while since I read this collection, and since I've written previously about my affection for Billy Collins I'm going to skip trying to come up with a new way to say "oooh, I like it!" (Although scanning the book flap does provide a lovely list of descriptives: wonderful, thoughtful, sly, moving, deft, droll, outrageous assertions whizzing past, brilliant, rueful, playful, warm-voiced, easy to love, unalloyed pleasure, metaphysical poet with a funny bone, sly (he's twice sly!), witty, playful, beautifully turned, etc.)

Thesaurus is the poem that caught my eye this morning as I was flipping through the pages. (on another day or another hour it might have been a different poem, but I thought this one seemed just right for right now.)


It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, wooly, furry, fleecy and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.

~ Billy Collins

The G-String Murders

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Monday, July 30, 2007
by Gypsy Rose Lee: Good grief! I'm back up to over 50 items checked out at the library (CURSE YOU, poetry section at Central Branch! In my defense, poetry books are usually small). Anyway, many of them are books I keep renewing with the thought that one day I will write them up. Oh, how they laugh at me from the teetering pile on my desk. But let's get back to the strippers and murder! (How many chances do you get to say "let's get back to strippers and murder?" "All the time on CSI," is one answer... but I have to say I enjoyed this novel with its show-biz pizzazz and personable stripper detective much more than the relentless pole dancing and gruesome murder on CSI.)

Where was I? Oh, yes... back to the strippers and murder! The mystery is not what is compelling about this novel -- did I care who the g-string strangler was? Not really, although the answer did surprise me. Part of this is because I often find the puzzle aspect of mysteries/crime novels the least interesting bit; part of it is because even with that in mind, the plot is not particularly inspiring. But I did L-O-V-E getting the inside view of backstage at the burlesque house! I loved the lingo (very Runyonesque), I loved the names (Lolita LaVerne, Biff Brannigan, Gee Gee Graham, etc.) I loved the tiny details of how the girls build their own costumes and the particulars of stage makeup (wax mascara!), the fact that there is a guy who sells g-strings to show girls out of a suitcase, how an act comes together, how a show comes together and the larger social view of how burlesque was viewed from outside of that world. (Show business is already on the fringe of what Other People in this book would consider polite society, burlesque is the fringe on the fringe.) I loved the character of Gypsy (written by Gypsy), and I must admit there were some moments of genuine suspense.

Here are some quotes from the back of the book that sum it up better than I can: Burlesque is the background... [and] the background is perfect. Recommended for readers who feel better when their eyebrows are raised." -- The New Yorker

"A lurid, witty and highly competent detective story... Rich show business vocabulary and stage door gags make her book almost a social document..." -- Time

June 25 Feist/Grizzly Bear

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Thursday, July 26, 2007
Here's how this has been going for the past week: sit down to finally write up the Feist/Grizzly Bear concert that I went to A MONTH AGO only to hop out of my chair like there are bees in my pants and dash off to do any number of other things that are suddenly not just important but crucial! You know, stuff like cleaning out the trunk of my car, deadheading roses, re-folding pillowcases. I have no idea why this is giving me so much grief. It was fun! I had a great time! The FLOOR BOUNCED! what's not to love? Intrigue, boozy berlin wall, deliberate provocation from the stage, bouncing floor, bubbles, disco ball, sparkles, jostles jokes anticipation. Bouncing bumping vertigo. teenage masseurs. merry chatter. the guy standing Right In Front of me that I kept accidentally poking in the ass with my pen until I realized that IT WAS NO ACCIDENT. ("see, I've got this evil hand...") triple epiphany, henceforth the tripiphany. songs of regret but no shame. lonely longing lipstick slapstick old theater jazz hands. it's a french horn AND I'm happy to see you. grizzly bear underwear. cobra charmer hard worker from the boston brooklyn beach boy band. sparkle sharpie shimmer punchout knockout topdown plumkit drumkit plumdrum sending me that gonzo vibe. play keys piano red please. sharpie finger arm shoulder circle circle circle shoulder arm finger. special broken boyfriend scene guest. loop pedal tweety birds. underwater shimmer stage lights let's put on a show. (mirror mirror honey bees flying across the air to build a new chamber in the heart)

Let me start again. When last we left this story, I was having another Crazy Day and debating the relative wardrobe merits of hair shirt, lead dress or maybe a straight jacket. I am happy to say the evening improved dramatically (I found something else to wear).

The Venue: The Crystal Ballroom. this old building was rescued from a wrecking ball some time in the 90's, and is constructed not of bricks and mortar, but of awesome. I'd never seen a show there before this one (I know!), but fell instantly in love with its old theater/ ballroom atmosphere. The Crystal is charming but shabby around the edges, which, if you ask me, worked perfectly with the handmade aesthetic of the show. The wooden floor is very bouncy, very bass-conducting, kinda vertigo inducing and VERY FUN. It's a holdover from the venue's former life as a ballroom dancing studio -- there's a layer of ball bearings under the wood. The motto was/ is "dance on air," and it's quite apt. The Ballroom is on the third floor of the building and has a wall of floor to ceiling windows covered with velvet curtains, which were drawn, because Portland in June doesn't get dark until after 10 pm. The unique properties of this room were commented on by both bands -- the dark haired Grizzly Bear said that this was the first time they'd played "the room with the bouncy floor" in Portland, and then asked about the Berlin Wall in the middle of the room. "I've never seen anything like that before." The stage was in the corner, but there was a 4 foot wide empty diagonal gash through the middle of the room, reaching from the stairs to the far side of the stage. It turns out that this was the divider between the All Ages section and the part where you can drink -- just wide enough that unless you had freakishly long ape arms, there was no buying beer and passing it to your underage friend standing on the other side. Feist commented as well, saying that she liked that they had been playing a lot of old theaters, and that this room had been "built for fun, so let's travel down the road of fun together, Portland." The road of fun should be on every map.

The Atmosphere: Giddy. I blame/thank the high percentage of high school kids in our section. I believe I witnessed at least 200 myspace self-portraits taken directly in front of me. GIDDY! The show was SOLD OUT, which added another shot of fizzy euphoria to the proceedings. (Let's not discount the bouncy floor. I think it makes anything automatically 30% more fun. The road of fun has a little leap in its lope.) This was a standing show; it said so on the ticket, it said so on the website. There were only a few seats available and those were in the balcony. Actually, I lie! There were some benches around the side of the room but it was so packed I can't imagine sitting on one of them. I've come to embrace standing at rock shows whenever possible. It keeps me more engaged with the performance and I feel like I'm participating in a way that I don't if I'm sitting down. Live music is give and take! (standard caveats for theaters where this isn't possible, etc.etc.) We were standing about 20 feet from the stage on the all ages side. (Feist also asked what was going on with the weird river of empty through the packed crowd. "So, it's All Ages up here, Alcoholics back there... and who's up there?" pointing to the balcony. Some all-ages wit helpfully provided "old people!" which was funny because it was TRUE, although I'm sure I was older than many of them, so those must have been some lazy old people!)

The Opening Act: Grizzly Bear. I have never understood the habit of routinely skipping the opening act and just showing up for the headliner. Unless there's assigned seating it's hard to get to where you can see -- aside from that, what if you miss something wonderful!? Lots of people do it, obviously, but... I guess I'm too greedy. I want it all! I was only vaguely aware of Grizzly Bear and didn't know what to expect, but that's half the fun. Actual grizzly bears? Amazing? Terrible? Indifferent? As it turns out, they were LOVELY and (I know I've said this a lot lately, but it's true) just what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it. Beautiful dreamy harmonies pulled the plug on whatever was holding in the remnants of my bad mood and drained it all away. It was an actual physical sensation, carried from their hands and mouths and brains through the speakers through the ball bearings in the floor and the molecules in the air to right to my very own skeleton. I didn't write down their set list because I'm not familiar enough with their music, but I know they played Lullabye ( chin up cheer up chin up cheer up), Easier (lord knows it happens all the time) and Knife. (rock star fashion notes: most of the band were working a 60s California Let's Play Electric Guitar Barefoot In the Sand look, except for the main guy who was rocking the Heap of Laundry/ I Live in a Van look. He made it work, somehow.)

The Between Sets Wait: Long. I normally enjoy watching the switch between bands but it took forever this night. It was probably 40 minutes between the end of Grizzly Bear and Feist taking the stage. There was bouncing on the floor, there were random bouts of applause (like that ever works), there was an annoying DJ from the sponsoring radio station, more clapping, waiting, crowd chatter getting louder louder louder. The kids in front of us all sat on the floor in little phone-lit puddles of texting teenage exhaustion, which meant people would come crushing forward from the back thinking they had happened upon a miraculous empty space near the stage that we were saving just for them, only to have to retreat in defeat. This long pause allowed me to notice that someone had decorated the instruments with words made from tape and alphabet stickers. I knew we were getting closer to showtime when one of the microphone guys put a sparkly sequined microphone cozy on the center stand. Other important elements: the disco ball in front and the vertically hanging christmas lights behind the stage.(not the little twinkly kind, but old-school C-9 ones.)

The Headliner: Feist. This show was so different than what I was expecting, but different in all the ways I want a live show to be different from an album. It was less sedate than I anticipated. It was LIVE; every flash of light from the disco ball and the spangled microphone cozy (later arm-band) delivered crackly zaps of electricity to the receptive crowd, even as she sang her sad and lonely songs. At one point she said something along the lines of "I like that you're standing out there, shuffling from foot to foot. It keeps things moving." Feist has a mischievous presence. When she spoke to the audience it was usually in the form of a sly aside, like if we didn't get the joke now, we would later. She may occasionally lie (how many cities thought Kevin Drew was just for them?) but she always tells the truth. She was at the Crystal to have fun and make a little trouble, which was fine by me! (I admire her for unapologetically doing her own thing -- she's tough, smart, feminine, sexy as hell -- but it all seems to be on her terms.) Speaking of doing her own thing.. you can just barely see it in the photo above, but she had a line (sharpie, I presume) going from one finger all the way up her arm, across her shoulder, turned into three circles across her chest (two with swirls drawn in, one with an x) and then continued down the other arm. If you can't decide what necklace to wear, draw one yourself!

She came onstage and immediately launched into Honey Honey. This made me happy not only because it is one of my favorite songs on the album, but because it triggered the full lo-tech loveliness of blue lights on the disco ball! (I realize that the lighting was designed by professionals and not by scrappy orphans putting on a show in the barn in order to save the orphanage, but I did like how it was simple but not boring.) This handcrafted element seems to crop up a lot in her work. The seams show a little bit, which only makes it more interesting -- they are making something up there on stage. Her band was excellent. Between their multi-instrumental ways and various looping pedals, the sound was very full and fresh. Highlights for me were probably Honey Honey, My Moon My Man (sung in a sort of funky-robot style), I Feel It All, Lover's Spit, Mushaboom, 1234 (!!!), Sealion (she really played the hell out of this one), and Let It Die. Since that's just about every song on the list, I would qualify the whole show as a big hit with me. If the joyful bouncing mass of humanity surrounding me was any indication, I'm not the only one who felt that way.

The Set List: (approximately)
Honey Honey -- (honey honey up in the trees/ fields of flowers deep in his dreams)
When I Was a Young Girl -- (My poor head is aching my sad heart is breaking)
So Sorry -- (we're slaves to our impulses)
My Moon My Man --(heart on my sleeve/ not where it should be)
The Park -- (who can be sure of anything through/ the distance that keeps you/ from knowing the truth)
Limit To Your Love -- (dedicated to the mustang convertible) (I'm piecing it together/ there's something out of place)
I Feel It All -- (put your weight against the door/ kick drum on the basement floor/ stranded in a fog of words/ loved him like a winter bird)
Open Window (Sarah Harmer cover)
Lover's Spit -- (with Kevin Drew) (swallowing words)
Gatekeeper -- (gatekeeper you held your breath/ made the summer go on and on)
Deep in My Memory (??)
The Water-- ( the telegraph cables hum/ and few can decipher who the message is from)
Mushaboom -- (it may be years until the day/ my dreams will match up with my pay)
1234 -- (ohhhhh you're changing your heart/ you know who you are)

Intution -- (and it's impossible to tell/ how important someone was)
Sealion (sea lion woman dressed in green/silver lining and golden seams)
Let It Die (the tragedy starts from the very first spark/ losing your mind for the sake of your heart)

It was such a good show! I don't know what else to say except that I went in one way and came out another -- that kind of transformation is always a mystery to me, but such a gift.

Cool John Mavroudis poster for the shows at the Fillmore (the night after our show) from
b/w Feist triptych picture from Compassionate Eye on flickr.

bee friendly

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bees love zinnias, in case anyone was wondering. (of course there's not a bee in this picture so you'll have to take my word for it.)

Speaking of summer, here is a fun article about new music for ice cream trucks. Ice cream trucks NEED new music! If I never hear Turkey in the Straw or The Entertainer through tinny ice cream truck speakers again, it will be too soon. Doesn't this sound promising? "It sounds like something you'd hear in a movie about ice cream." A movie about ice cream! I want to go see it right now.

Here's a little something else (via BoingBoing) Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks.

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

There once was a poet named Will
Who tramped his way over a hill
And was speechless for hours
Over some stupid flowers
This was years before TV, but still.

Max in Hollywood, Baby

| On
Friday, July 20, 2007
by Maira Kalman

This book is ridiculously fun. I should know, because it chased me around for two weeks until I finally gave up and checked it out. First, it was just sitting innocently on display in the children's picture book section of the library. Cute! -- a dog in a director's chair and the gratuitous use of the word "baby" -- amusing, but not enough. Then it was on the wrong shelf while I was looking for something else. Then it was in a bin in another area (it was published in 1992, how many copies are there???) -- all of this in the Hollywood branch of the library. Clearly, I had to read it before it fell off of a shelf and on to my head! I flipped it open and was immediately charmed. (later that day I went to the park and a brass band (normally not found in the park) was playing Hooray for Hollywood, I kid you not. I hate to think what might have happened if I had NOT read it.)

(birth of an obsession: I cannot rest until I either send or receive a telegram with the word "shillyshallying" included.)

As I was saying, this book is a lot of fun. Max Stravinsky is a poet, a lover, a dog -- soon to be director of his own Hollywood vision. He and his lovely dalmatian bride Crepes Suzette have been called to California by his agent to write and direct a movie. (because all bohemian poet dogs have agents, OF COURSE.) Anyway... it is fun, fun, fun. Max develops a bit of an ego problem while living the life and writing/directing the requested "sugar-smackin, rootin-tootin, high-spy, sci-fi, kissy-kissy, melt-in-your-mouth, madcap musical mystery" and well, you should probably read it and see what happens. (Here's a hint: after the pressures of the business start to get to him, he begins to sound like this: "I want a monogrammed cravat/ That says Stravinsky Thought of That./ I want to pout and rant and rave/ and get everything I crave/ I want to be a celebrity/ Have my pawprints in cement for posterity/ and just when it seems I have all that I adore/ I will graciously implore: I want more I want more I want more.") It's trippy, surreal, and gives a vigorous workout to just about every Hollywood lifestyle cliche imaginable. (well, the ones suitable for kids, anyway.) Kalman has a knack with language (it's very zoomy) and the colors and images are just as vibrant. (be sure to read all of the title page information and dust jacket -- so funny!)

(the whole of this quote is "I'm crazy for movies/ I'm weak at the knees/ English Mysteries,/screwball comedies/ spaghetti westerns/ three bowls please/ it doesn't matter what, it doesn't matter who/ If it's Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers/ It'll absolutely do I worship their allure/ If I'm sick, don't find a cure/ A Hitchcock scream, a Fellini dream/ Film noir, Mel Blanc/ And all that's in between/ Flood my senses/ make me weep/ Kiss the heroine/ Kill the creep/ The credits, the edits/ Houdini! Whodunits!/ Musicals that dance/ and dancicals that muse/ I'm filled with hope watching Cinemascope/ cause I'm no dope/ I love movies.")

I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that it has a satisfactory conclusion and an entertaining argument between Max's yes-man and his yes-man's yes-man about Schopenhauer on the last page.
surpreezes, no?
(words of wisdom from my new favorite illustrated secondary character, Ferrrnando Extra Debonnaire.)

Now I must look into Max's other adventures ( Ooh-La-La (Max in Love), Max Makes a Million) and the rest of Kalman's books. If you are going to be chased around the library by an illustrated children's book, this is a delightful way to go.

frankenstein sewing

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I am in the process of frankensteining together a new top. [For you non-sewers out there, frankensteining is when two or more patterns are combined to make a single garment. I don't think it's a term that shows up in Vogue Sewing, but people who sew always seem to intuit the meaning.] In this instance it is the bodice from a dress sewn to the bias bottom of a blouse pattern. The rationales for this particular experiment: it should be easy (red flag! red flag!), the bodice looks great on the dress AND the straps are wide enough to hide bra straps (which was a problem with the original top pattern which has spaghetti straps), and it's long enough to not ride up and flash the world whenever I sit down. Important stuff!

It went together pretty well to start. I had to do some ease adjustments since the patterns were two different sizes from two different companies, but still -- no major hassles -- until I tried it on, of course. I pulled it over my head (the straps were still not attached on one end so I just sort of held them) and it was h u g e on the bottom, specifically in the back. What had been to that moment been a garment full of potential (red and so promising) immediately transformed into something that looked like maternity wear for alien women who carry their pregnancies in the middle of their back. Once my brain got to alien babies, it was difficult to step back into the realm of useful troubleshooting. Here's how the conversation went with my (much less alarmist) sister:

her: how's your shirt?
me: oh, fine! Especially if you happen to be 25 months pregnant with some alien back baby.
her: ...
me: no, really. It is hideous! It's like a circus tent! a maternity circus tent! For aliens whose unborn babies protrude FROM THE MIDDLE OF THEIR BACK.
her:(ignoring my rising hysteria) did you pin the straps?
me: no! What difference would that make? it was gapping like the grand canyon! Two pins alone won't fix that. I'm going to have to add a seam and maybe a zipper, if not cut the whole thing out again and start over. Stupid Frankenstein! why do I do this??
her: (pinning straps) there.
me: oh. right. That doesn't look so bad.

Somehow, the gap disappeared into the bias and now I just have to take it in under the arms (where it won't show at all) and it will be fine. I'm sure there are lessons here about jumping to negative and ridiculous conclusions (not that I've ever done that before!), but mostly I'm just glad that it looks like it will work.

seven fifteen

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Monday, July 16, 2007
many years

Sunday was my birthday and such a good day it was! I had a bunch of stuff I thought I'd say about it... a description of the picnic in the park, my Deep Thoughts and ruminations on how laurelhurst park is not unlike a well-written short story, the long list of my many flaws and how I'd like to improve in the coming year, how despite that long list I am optimistic and excited... but when I sat down to write it I realized the most important thing I'd like to say is how incredibly fortunate I am. For all my whining and carrying on, I have Top Shelf friends AND family. Make better friends is never on my list of things to do because the ones I have (old and new) are all so extraordinarily kind, generous and fun to know! So, hooray for birthdays, hooray for new years and extra big hoorays for all you friend and family shaped people out there!

(photo is a detail of the Long-Life fairy that Martina gave to me.)

lucky thirteen

| On
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday the 13th was a FUN day! My sister and I took off for the coast in keeping with our annual "hey, let's go read at the beach" tradition. It was a kind of leap of faith, since the weather really could have gone either way. Fortunately, it went the "sunny and warm with a light breeze" way instead of the "whipping sand and rain and 54 degrees" way. Woo hoo! We originally intended to go to Hug Point, which is a beautiful cove south of Cannon Beach, but we decided at the last minute to go south to Lincoln City and have lunch first, then go up to Oceanside. (Lunch = such delicious thai food -- I ordered "mango delight" just because of the name, and I can report that it was indeed delightful!)

blue sky at oceanside
(I would love to have any one of these Oceanside houses, if anyone has an extra that they're not using.)

Oceanside is a bit north of Tillamook. One must drive through miles and miles of dairy farms (the kind where the cows roam around) and green pastures dotted with picturesque cows and horses in order to get there. Fortunately, the overwhelming Smell Of Cow is less than the Smell of Clover and that other sweet beachy smell that I can never identify.


There were pelicans! I always associate them with Florida rather than the Pacific, which is crazy, but there you have it. They are so huge! You really can't tell from this photo, but these birds are enormous. I wondered about the collective noun for pelicans. Flock didn't seem right. (what sort of harido would you have for a Flock of Pelicans?) Thank god for the internet! I found the Beastly Garden of Wordy Delights, which informs me that this is a squadron of pelicans. If they had been floating, a raft of pelicans.

beach reading
And of course I got some quality beach reading in. If The G-String Murders isn't perfect for the beach, I don't know what is.

It was a lovely day and not unlucky at all.

such soft and furry paws

| On
Thursday, July 12, 2007
This video cracks me up! Much like Morgan Freeman as a naked vampire in a coffin bubble bath, it's hard to imagine, in our current Mommy's Little Genius Baby Einstein cultural climate, that this was on a kid's show (in this instance my beloved Sesame Street). Although according to the YouTube title, it was BANNED from the Street. Hee hee. All I can say is that it sounds far more suggestive without the visuals. If pressed, I would have guessed that it was from the Muppet Show rather than Sesame Street. I can also tell you that it is so much fun to sing in the car! Big thanks to my sister for finding the song and then hunting down the video.

summer sevens

| On
Saturday, July 07, 2007
I hope everyone had a lovely day of sevens! I didn't go buy lottery tickets or anything, but I did enjoy the S-ness of it all - - seven seven seven on a saturday.

To celebrate (why not?) I went berry picking with Leslie and Bec on Sauvie's Island. Sauvie's is in the Columbia river, only about 15 min. from portland. It is beautiful and has a variety of amenities such as: very fertile farmland, views of at least 3 mountains on a clear day, home to many farms and u-pick fields (like the place we went today), a nude beach and a huge wildlife refuge.

(typical view -- these were hydrangea plants getting some water. This is kind of blurry, but the sharp one didn't have such pretty clouds. I chose clouds.)

Anyway. We decided at the last minute to just GO RIGHT NOW, which was such a good plan! I got sunburnt (hello, bra-strap mark I must now live with the rest of the summer despite my vigilant sunscreening), reasserted my inner Berry Badass (gloves? no way!) AND perhaps most importantly, I discovered that being a blueberry scofflaw is almost as fun as a hairdo scofflaw. (that's right! We picked berries (for aprox. 20 seconds) in the FORBIDDEN ZONE on the other side of the blue flag. Don't mess with us!)

easy picking
(forbidden blueberries. yes, they taste better.)

What was ripe for picking today: blueberries, marionberries, and raspberries. We had to pick them all, of course. At only 1.50 per pound, it seemed wasteful not to.

oh so delicious!

huge raspberries
(they are huge!)

mega berries
(marionberries are just fancy blackberries that only grow in Oregon and maybe Washington. don't let anyone tell you differently.)

In closing, I would like to say BERRIES (!) and recommend enjoying some however you can (u-pick, farmers market, etc.).
(any incoherence in this post I will blame on the sunburn, and maybe on scofflaw mania. Or possibly on my raspberry overdose.)

hairdo scofflaw

| On
Friday, July 06, 2007
I was looking at the Weird and Wonderful Words book edited by Erin McKean (aka Ms. Dressaday), and opened it right to scofflaw, which is one of my favorite words! It always makes me think of Tracy Turnblad as a "hairdo scofflaw" in the first Hairspray movie. That's an ethos to aspire to, don't you think? Maybe it's because I've never been a Big Hair girl, but it sounds like fun. I can't think of another kind of scofflaw I'd rather be. I loved the first movie, but I'm also looking forward to the Hairspray Movie Musical so much! I like to think of it as a late entry in birthday week festivities. Movie musicals and summer go so well together.

Other things that go well with summer evenings: garden dinner parties! I have to go find something to wear (alas, I don't think there is time for hairdo scofflawism) and head over to Weird Cousin Bonnie's house. She has a wonderful functional garden (mostly fruit trees and vegetables) and two amazingly beautiful elm trees. I hope they have the hammock set up. (and I hope that there is ice cream, but that's kind of a perpetual summer hope.)

scofflaw someone who contemptuously breaks the law, especially a law that's difficult to enforce. This isn't a very rare word, but it has a marvelous origin. A Massachusetts man, Delcevare King of Quincy, held a contest in 1923 to find a word for the 'lawless drinker' of illegal alcohol, and he offered $200 as a prize. He received 25,000 entries, coming from all over the United States and from several foreign countries. Two entrants, Mr. Henry Irving Dale and Miss Kate L. Butler, independently came up with scofflaw, and they split the prize on January 15, 1924.

Ten Poems To Change Your Life

| On
Friday, July 06, 2007
By Roger Housden

I picked this up on a whim while browsing an unfamiliar branch of the library. Usually seeing a title like this makes me think "Oh, really!?" (which is my polite visiting library version of OH, YEAH??? like when anyone tells me "this is the best book/movie/cd ever.") But, I pulled it off the shelf and flipped it open anyway, since that's my library/bookstore habit. The poem I landed on raised my temperature a few degrees so I decided to bring it home and give it a chance. It's been sitting around, waiting. I have so many other books waiting to be read. (in fact I just had to do a purge because I had almost SIXTY items out from the library -- about 12 of them were DVDs, but still...) Something about this one kept me from sending it back. That's disingenuous. What kept it around was the implied promise to change my life. As I've said recently (probably too many times), the past few months have been difficult. I'm trying to make big, positive changes for myself and it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. (Mostly it's the not knowing if any of this effort will make a bit of difference.) I've cried more at the drop of a hat in the past 6 months than I have in my entire life. I hate it because crying gives me headaches and I am not a dainty weeper. It gets snotty! (I realize this is extremely indulgent and that 80% of the world's population does not have the luxury of crying over stress that doesn't involve food or shelter.)

I must admit that I found many of these poems to be not only moving and wonderful in their own right, but just what I needed to read, just when I needed to read them. I would have never sought out a book about ecstatic poets on my own; in fact, if I had seen that written on the dust cover I probably would have put it back. I know some people roll their eyes at the idea of synchronicity or coincidence or whatever you want to call it, but it has happened too many times for me to dismiss it out of hand. Those crazy mystics are sometimes just the thing.

Each poem gets its own chapter, and Housden then takes them apart for analysis and a little modern spiritual spinning. More than anything the structure reminds me of Poetry Sermons with Housden at the pulpit examining THE WORD, but I don't mean that in a pejorative way. He takes the text, pulls out lines, and lets loose with his interpretations. Of course (IMHO) really great poetry leaves itself open for more than one interpretation so this is just his take on it. In my current state of Needing Reassurances, his takes are mostly comforting. (much of it boils down to: feeling crazy and out of control isn't necessarily a bad thing.) For this feelin' crazy individual, it was like someone smoothing my hair and saying it will be all right, although reminding me I may continue to feel crazy.

here are little excerpts from five of the poems:

From The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting
their bad advice---

From Last Night As I Was Sleeping, by Antonio Machado

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt---marvelous error!---
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

From Zero Circle, by Rumi

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.

From The Time Before Death, by Kabir

If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

So if you are feeling crazy (my friends and family are begging me to quit saying 'crazy' but 'completely neurotic' just doesn't have that zingy z zang that I get from 'crazy'), or if you are feeling like you want to read some ecstatic poets (remember, these are only excerpts and there are five others!), a little of both, or just want to read poems that have sentiments like these for reasons entirely your own, I can recommend this book.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

| On
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
by Vendela Vida

I enjoyed this novel very much. Here are some reasons you might enjoy it too:

1. Would someone with a name as euphonious as Vendela Vida let you down? (answer: no.)

2. There is an ice hotel. (ICE HOTEL!!!)

3. The title is so beautiful. I learned in the acknowledgments that it is the title of a poem by Sami poet Marry Ailoniedia Somby.

4. Like her first novel (which I read last year) Vida deals with big concepts like identity, abandonment and isolation in spider silk ways that are delicate but stronger than steel. She's poignant, pointed, funny and fearless.

5. Reindeer, northern lights, and a reason to consider what life must be like at the top of the world.

(bonus: it is so beautifully written)

maps and plots

| On
Monday, July 02, 2007
all maps should have names like this

I love maps like these! More maps should have names like these on them, don't you think? (and I don't mean in some lame pirate-themed subdivision either.)

Here's the kind of scenery Thunder Rock Cove and Secret Beach signify in this instance:


p.s. I may have to murderate the evil little boys next door. They have begun their annual summer activity of firecrackers that do nothing but make loud obnoxious noises and smell like sulphur, which they no doubt find comforting as it reminds them of the hell dimension from whence they came. They started at 8AM and have been going all day. I am plotting revenge, but so far there's only been ineffectual eye-narrowing and muttering. They are only children, I know, but they are EVIL CHILDREN and therefore kind of scary.

july, july!

| On
Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dear July, please be a hotbed of mirth and if there be mayhem, let it be the merry kind like when something accidentally catches on fire but a few wet towels and some hopping around takes care of it and everyone gets back to laughing too hard and having fun. Like that. (a high sun to rain ratio would also be appreciated.)

I have had it with being in a miserable weepy mood. Good things have been happening but I've had my head too far up my ass to appreciate them, due mostly to my massive, largely self-induced STRESS. I chalk it up my current Transition Mode, which has been necessary but emotionally arduous for little old neurotic me. Anyway! Enough of that. Good things are already happening! The second half of June started stepping up and bringing good things like the Feist show (more on that soon) and sunsets at Harris Beach. (vote for your favorite sunset!)




(I have so many sunset photos from this trip I could have a sunset contest every day of the week in July! don't worry, I won't.)

July is already shaping up nicely. After a busy and interesting morning at the library today, I went walking in my usual park and ran right into a brass band playing Hooray for Hollywood! Random, but delightfully so. (I like songs that have Hooray in the title.) Just last week I was bitching about Tuesdays being no fun anymore -- well, that's not a problem this week! My sister emailed me with the news that she WON two tickets to see Chris Isaak at Edgefield this Tues. July 3rd, and I get to go with her! She won in an email contest run by a local tv station during the Simpsons. (Who says television isn't good for you?) Chris usually comes around these parts in July, but we were boycotting this year because a) he doesn't have a new album out b) we've seen him a million times (it's always a good show, though) c) Edgefield had a ridiculous service charge that made Ticketmaster look generous in comparison. But none of that matters now because FREE and WON, which makes them even more fun!

July, we're off to a good start.

(graffiti word generator here.)