- To my surprise, I was invited to a Jeopardy audition after all! I wasn’t really feelin’ it once dates and travel budgets got real, but it’s nice to be asked.
- Last night I cut up a bunch of fruit for a training I was helping with this morning, and put it in the car to keep it cool overnight because there wasn’t enough room in the fridge. Sure enough, the car was prowled overnight…but they didn’t take the fruit. Who doesn’t want 25 bucks’ worth of delicious precut fruit?! The trunk was open and stuff was thrown around, but all that was missing were the Shell gift cards that had been in the glove compartment. A ball cap was left behind in the driver’s side footwell. It has duct tape on the front and on the duct tape is written REDNECK. I don’t want it, so I’m srsly thinking of hanging it on the fence near where the car was parked, in case Car Prowler wants it back.
- Sanguinity and I have gotten up to nine miles in our marathon training walks, which means on Saturday evening we walked from our house down to Sellwood Riverfront Park and home again. I heard a pair of mourning doves from the Springwater Trail. Next week’s assignment is a modest four miles, so maybe a hike at Angel’s Rest?
- I’m reading Peter Cameron’s Coral Glynn. It’s a quiet book, but this scene at an awkward wedding luncheon made me laugh:
The bridal party arrived, and when they were all correspondingly seated, a waiter appeared with a magnum of champagne and went round the table, filling everybody’s coupe. He was young and terrified and had apparently been told that each squat glass must be filled to its brim. Everyone sat in silence while this feat was slowly and painstakingly achieved. Little beads of quivering perspiration appeared on the waiter’s forehead. Watching him was like watching a medical student suture a wound.
When the waiter had scurried out of the room, Robin stood and attempted to raise his glass, but its brimming abundance made this impossible, so he bent down and sipped preventatively from it, and, so tamed, managed to hold it before him. “A toast,” he said, “to Clement and Coral: May their days be long and their loads be light, with peaceful days and fruitful nights!”
Everyone agreed to this toast by leaning over and sipping in a delicate feline way at their champagne.
- Supposed to ride my bike to work tomorrow, as I resolved to do once a week for the PSU Bike to Work Challenge that’s happening all this month. Last time, I tried using only one gear to see if I’d like a single-speed bike. I got off and walked uphill twice on my way home. This time, I will try using three gears. I think Portland has a club for riders of three-speeds.
Basically, I act like I should get a medal for riding to work: I am willing to do it if there is lots of praise and prize drawings and preferably a free breakfast involved. After this month I’ll be reading my book on the bus again.
Every year at St. Patrick’s Day, I’m like, “This soda bread is so good! I should make it more than once a year.” And we eat it all up and don’t make it again until a year later when it’s St. Patrick’s Day again.
Now, thanks to buttermilk having been sold out in every size but the half-gallon when we bought our St. Patrick’s Day groceries, I have used some of the leftover to MAKE ANOTHER BATCH of soda bread. It’s in the oven right now!
Conversely, this past Saturday was Canyon Day at Reed, when students and alumni and neighbors get together to pull invasives, plant natives, and improve trails. I was with Sanguinity when I saw the announcement and said, “I should go this year.” She pointed out that I have said that for about 25 years now, @ twice per annum. I don’t think I once said it without expecting I’d go. It’s often written in on my calendar. But I’ve never gone and I didn’t go this time either. I will now stop thinking of myself as someone who goes to Canyon Day.
Yesterday I went to see Eileen Myles at Reed.
(This photo was taken by Tom Orange in 2008, but it’s very much what she looked like.)
One of the lines that’s always in her bio and was repeated in her introduction is that she moved to New York City in 1974 to become a poet. She did become one, and everyone is still curious about it. The students were trying to figure it out: what does that mean, what does she do exactly, how does she decide what to write down and what to make public.
I don’t go to many poetry readings. I find them really awkward. When the poems are short, do you clap after each one? What I really hate is when there’s no applause afterward but a few people feel compelled to go “mm,” or “hnh,” to show how thoughtful and appreciative they are. (Okay, maybe they are doing it completely unconsciously, but IT SURE DOESN’T FEEL THAT WAY.) Eileen Myles couldn’t erase all the awkwardness, but she acknowledged it in a poem, and also did not read in Poetry Voice. She said she feels distrust when poets read like every word is important. “I go to a lot of poetry readings,” she said. “I love them. But part of what I do is not listen. So I read as if a lot of loss will occur.”
I’m going to read more of her work. Maybe even the novel with a main character named Eileen Myles, the sort of thing that usually makes me run screaming!
coffee and peeps
coffee and peeps
He is risen
coffee and peeps
Simone, who is hardly ever interested in human food, took a peep by the neck and shook it to death, then shredded its head. She is still enjoying playing with the body, except when it gets stuck on her claw.
It’s a sunny weekend in Portland! Sanguinity and I did our hiking yesterday in the Gorge, a walk at Gillette Lake on the Washington side. It was uncrowded, probably because it features power lines and clearcuts rather than stunning waterfalls. But plenty of beauty and interest including garter snakes sunning on the hillside, a lizard, perfect trilliums in the woods, and retrievers launching themselves into the water after sticks. Sang read me three chapters of Kidnapped while we lounged on the moss.
I saw this on The Impulsive Buy and immediately wanted to give it to the anthropologists from space. It has everything.
Just finished: Sorry, Tree, poems by Eileen Myles. Most have short lines and are from one to three pages long. I like how their associations reach farther than my logical mind, but somehow I don’t feel lost. The endings feel like endings, but not overly tidy.
Here’s a bit from “Fifty-Three” that reminded me of my own desire to just look at trees and hang out with them:
I desire a big book about
this not better than them but
Who doesn’t love the text?
a book about trees
it’s like a park
except that all its windows
you look up at the world &
a book is
a web I suppose
saying you come
here to go
which a tree
my best friend
By happy coincidence, Myles will be reading at Reed! On Thursday, April 4, 6:30 PM in the chapel.
And also, though non-thematic: Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine and The Talented Clementine. I picked up Clementine because someone said it was reminiscent of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. Well. Clementine doesn’t name her doll Chevrolet, she names her cats after things in the bathroom. She isn’t told to “sit here for the present,” but she notes that being in gifted class has not resulted in getting any gifts yet. She gets in trouble for messing with the hair of the overachiever girl. And there’s a definite Henry-Huggins/Ramona dynamic between her and that girl’s older brother. It wasn’t reminiscent, it was downright distracting in its parallels.
I got past it, though. It is a little strange how the Clementine books are written in first person, but have more knowing smiles over the main character’s head than the Ramona books do in third person. But there are funny moments and Clementine has a great set of parents. I’m going to keep going with the series.
Reading now: the draft of a friend’s novel. I like the main character’s heartfelt voice, which reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle’s Vicky or Poly a bit. And I’m getting a glimpse of a cultural moment I missed but not by much– a decade, a degree or two of church immersion. Such a luxury to read an editor’s draft, too…hardly any typos or grammatical clunks!
About to read: A Simple Revolution: The Making of an Activist Poet, by Judy Grahn. I read a little, not much, of Grahn’s work when I was in college. I dunno, I’m having a fling with the old-skool. Lesbiate and Smash the State!
The reason I know I’m about to read A Simple Revolution (and also What If All the Kids Are White?), or at least give them a try, is that I got them through interlibrary loan and therefore can’t renew them. Which brings us to
Sadly must return mostly unread: Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, by Heather Love. More academic than my usual reads, but I was intrigued by its focus on the shadow side of queer identity. Pride is compulsory, but what about the feelings it demands we get rid of, like shame, loneliness, and regret? Not that those are my favorite things to feel, but they’re key to our collective history, (see The Well of Loneliness and so on) and certainly part of most (?) of our individual and family coming-out histories.
What really made me take this book home was that I opened it to a quote from another book, José Esteban Muñoz’ Disidentifications, that I found fascinating and spooky in equal measures. Disidentifications is probably also too much theory for me, but here. “Recounting a joke that he shares with a friend, Muñoz describes plans for a ‘gay shame day parade’:
This parade, unlike the sunny gay pride march, would be held in February…Loud colors would be discouraged; gay men and lesbians would instead be asked to wear drab browns and grays. Shame marchers would be asked to carry signs no bigger than a business card. Chanting would be prohibited. Parade participants would be asked to parade single file. Finally, the parade would not be held on a central city street but on some backstreet, preferably by the river.
So now that’s here, and I can go to the book return tomorrow with a light heart.
Just finished: Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind, a mix of personal stories, history, and analysis. It was like the perfect book for me. Gentrification and its amnesia, the unacknowledged trauma of the AIDS epidemic and its echoes in the present, intersectionality, the pitfalls of making art in a time of consumerism and erasure.
The core of the book is the intersection between the AIDS epidemic and gentrification in New York City. Brutally concrete connections, like men dying and their apartments going to market rate as their lovers are evicted because they couldn’t get on the lease. And broader parallels of displacement and homogenization, infecting minority, artistic, and queer cultures until people think it’s normal that art is about money in New York, and gay politics are about marriage, and the institutions of power are immutable.
I want to turn around and read it again, but it’s due at the library. I expect I’ll eventually buy a copy, but it’s published by a university press and expensive. (“Gentrification of Our Literature” chapter in action, I guess.)
This book comes closer than anything else I’ve read to articulating the amnesiac, normalizing aspects of whiteness and gentrification that are difficult to get at, though its discussions are brief. And beyond that, there are personal and tangential (except not) stories that link to my own memories and preoccupations:
- Recollections of her testimony in 1994 in Canada, over the Butler Code. The quandary of what to wear to court: doesn’t that just say it all about the power structures in place? Patrick Califia, then Pat Califia, put on a brown corduroy dress in the hope of being listened to. Schulman wore pants and spoke up for John Preston’s work (I just added him to my read-the-alphabet list before I exit the P’s). It did not go well, but I’m glad some of the testimony is presented again here.
- A tribute to Kathy Acker. She died of breast cancer, not AIDS, but “gentrification and the AIDS crisis were part of the reason that she has disappeared from view. In a sense, her context is gone. Not that she was a gay male icon, but rather that she was a founder and product of an oppositional class of artists, those who spoke back to the system rather than replicating its vanities.”
I love that this tribute is here even though Schulman and Acker were not best buds, but “friendly acquaintances.” Acker had reviewed Schulman’s novel in The Village Voice, out of the blue. “There was nothing in it for her, believe me. I had no currency, no connections. I couldn’t help her in any way. She just liked my book and she said so–how ungentrified of her.” Schulman went to her house and looked at her bookshelves: “She would read every book by an author. She had more curiosity that way than most people. She had read every book by Norman Mailer, which I remember really striking me as he was entirely irrelevant to everyone else I knew.”
[a side note: when I was a student at Reed, Kathy Acker and Craig Lesley came to campus on the same evening, and did separate readings. I felt like the literary landscape was laid out for me right there. At the time I was like, Acker's way is my way. I am very different now.]
- Schulman’s examination of her own place in the system, as a professor. (I first heard of her in the early 1990s when I was considering the low-residency MFA at Goddard, and she was teaching there.) She teaches first-generation college students, many of them immmigrants, at Staten Island amid ripped ceiling tiles and no computers and crowded classrooms. “There is a suggestive, cheerleading quality to my encouragements about reading, writing, thinking, analyzing….What I do not discuss with them is that this degree in this school under these conditions and this level of class segregation is normalizing and pacifying them into the U.S. class system…how little this degree will help them leave it, is not on my syllabus. It’s a thin line between helping them move towards being informed versus depressing or humiliating them at what they are being kept from. Ultimately, I ‘do my job.’”
I know teachers who face these issues, or mostly try not to think about them because they don’t seem solvable. As for her MFA years, Schulman estimates that about nine of her students had real talent…and she would have helped them anyhow, without the job. In most arts, the MFA system has been part of the machinery of gentrification.
The book bugged me in places. New York is the center of the universe, with a distant satellite called San Francisco. I don’t think Sarah Schulman would have the time of day for me, assimilated as I am and living in omg Oregon. She’s dismissive. Her take on LGBT parenting is ridonkulous, though I think she knows it. (“Very few children actually grow up to make the world a better place. Personally, I don’t feel that creating new victims, perpetrators, and bystanders is the great social ooh-and-aah that it is made out to be.”)
But. She remembers what it was like, and her stories feel like the opposite, the ungentrified opposite, of name-dropping. There’s just something about hearing someone speak the truth.
Reading Now: Triggers, by Robert J. Sawyer, my go-to author for mental popcorn, and I mean that in the best way. Also just started Silas Marner via emails from DailyLit, so I’m continuing my love affair with George Eliot.
About to Read: Sarah Schulman’s Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences is waiting for me at the library.
I finally got around to putting a Kindle reader on my work computer and Chrome browser. (My home computer is too antiquated.) The reason? Daniel Pinkwater’s Fish Whistle, whose title is apparently two words now, is free today and tomorrow! Thanks for the tip, shellynoir. :)
Simone brought a rat in. We had the most
enchanting exasperating half-hour hunting it in the living room. At one point I had it cornered behind an end-table, with an additional barricade of books stacked against the gap. I couldn’t decide what tool or container to use to reach it down there, and I considered leaving it there while I went to pick up sanguinity from work. But then there was a little rustling noise and I looked down to see the rat scaling the stack of books, using impressive chimneying technique.
I managed to encourage it, with a broomstick, to crawl into a plastic wastebasket I held at the gap. Then I overturned the wastebasket and scooted it across the floor to the door. I put the cat in another room, opened the door, and slid the wastebasket across the threshold. As soon as there was a gap, the rat slipped out, crossed the porch, and disappeared under the steps.
I’d pinched the rat’s tail and made it cry, and apparently scared it badly (there was a little puddle on the floor where I’d had the wastebasket), but otherwise it seemed in good shape. If it’s true that cats bring home only a quarter of their prey, perhaps Simone has caught about eight rodents now. I am instituting a policy of inspections before opening the door for her. Can’t believe I let her waltz in with it.
This is far from the first time I’ve meant to participate in the Wednesday reading meme, but the first time I’ve gotten as far as starting a post. Yay me! In the twelve minutes remaining in my lunch hour:
What I’m Reading: Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
What I’ve Just Read: Three Among the Wolves, by Helen Thayer. I love reading about her adventures; she is quiet and tough. Here she spent a year observing wolves, along with her husband and their dog Charlie. Charlie was able to act as their ambassador and interpreter to some extent.
What I’m Reading Next: Something due soon at the library. Maybe Brian Doyle’s Mink River, maybe Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind.