Saturday, May 31, 2008

Top Five Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon

1. Have lunch
Alicia and I saw the sideways rain from our dry and comfy spot in the mall, so we slipped into The Corner Bakery for a bite. It was delicious, and we remained dry.

2. Shop a little longer
Unless you have to leave a building, why bother? Very few things cannot be postponed. I got out of reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man three times as an undergraduate. That is evidence enough of this philosophy.

3. Be thrilled you parked in the parking garage
The fact that shopping started at that point is just evidence that, for once, the gods were on your side. It never will happen again.

4. Choose the perfect spot for a nap
While beds are usually prime real estate for this experience, look beyond the expected. That spot on the couch will work just as well. Even that spot on the floor next to the couch. Use your imagination.

5. Start reading Robinson Crusoe
I keep trying, but PayPal keeps thwarting me. AbeBooks hasn't, though, so I heartily recommend that great service. No offense, but eBay doesn't really make purchasing that easy for the dedicated reader like me, and PayPal isn't always our friend.

So, what are your top five things to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Communal Reading: There's Nothing Like It!

We already have established that I'm a compulsive reader. Nothing is safe from my eyes. I would read an aspirin bottle over and over if it was my only source of reading material. (Perish the thought!)

Now, the question is, "What brings me joy when I read?"

I discovered it this weekend as I picked up the book Fluke. Carole reviewed it and loved it, and I thought I'd read it, too. I had just finished Julia's Chocolates and posted my revisit of the book to compliment Carole's review. As we talked about the books she had read that were perched around my house, I watched her peruse two books she was interested in starting: Under the Tuscan Sun and A Great and Terrible Beauty.

"Tell me when you start that one!" I said as I picked up the latter title from the pool table. "I'll start it, too, and we'll read it together." Then I sighed. "I miss that."

What brings me joy when I read: sharing.

Oh, I'm not that altruistic. The act of reading is very pleasurable for me and I'd do it alone. I have. But how much better to share the discovery of a book with a friend?

Carole and I anxiously await the next book by Jasper Fforde or Geraldine Brooks (to name just a couple of our faves). When we get the new book in hand, we choose the day we start, and that's when we crack the spine on the book. It's great to compare where we are and what did we think when — well, you get the gist. I love the conversations that begin, "Where are you?" No salutation, no lead — just the meat (or, for us vegetarians, the tofu) of the conversation.

There are times when one of us sallies forth into the water, then waves our companion into the water. There are times when one of us should. (Or not. Need I mention The Last Templar?) Then there are times when the sand and surf are perfect and we splash in together, jellyfish and horseshoe crabs be darned!

I love when Carole sallies forth. She waves me into some great treats. I love to do that for her, too.

I also love to toss in some unknowns ("It looked good" or "The jacket is intriguing" or "It won the Costa Book Award in 2007, and Geraldine Brooks has a favorable blurb on the cover"). One never knows if the title will pan out, or if the blurbs were more mercenary than honest. Sometimes she loved it and I couldn't find a hook. Other times Carole can't get past the sloth on page 50 (if it's big enough, who could?).

But as nice as the quiet, solitary read is, nothing quite compares to the phone call that starts in the middle:
"Oh, my stars, I can't believe how Jack finally told Mary about the painting!"
"I know!"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Space on MySpace

I have launched myself into social media with MySpace.

To be fair, it wasn't my idea. Those kinds of places seemed destined for college kids or people "looking for trouble" (due to "pirate hat" kinds of photos — is it a children's party or a drunken revelry?). How better to be misunderstood or trapped in cyberspace than with a Web presence that can be misinterpreted?

Then Valerie asked if I was on MySpace. Her siblings, cousins — heck, her entire family was on MySpace. Why wasn't I? (She was nicer than that.)

So, I decided I'd take the plunge. Oh, I'd start by dipping my little toe into the surf. I'd get a page, get Valerie to "friend" me, then I'd be satisfied. I'd be there, lurking — but without any risk.

Then I started posting a photo or two. These were photos I thought the kids would like to see of themselves and their dad. Then there was photos of David. And of them. And of Conor and Karen and Vicky and Alicia and Mel. And of — me. Oh, nothing scandalous (unless you consider a tiny muffin scandal-worthy!). But why not?

The photos were a hit and Val picked up one right away. (It had her boyfriend Jessie in it — how could she resist?) Then a few others of her siblings. Thankfully I figured out how to set the privacy setting before I posted the tiny muffin photo. (Some things just cannot be explained.)

I have "friended" Vicky, too, hoping for photos or videos of Conor.

Now I have one more reason to spend way too much time on the computer. However, the kids are on, which is the real reason to be in MyCyberSpace. So far, very cool. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Without Poetry — Now What? Nuptials!

I had a nice niche going there last month with poetry, didn't I? Now I have to think of something original. It won't be hard, especially while planning a wedding.

I had a bit of a shock this past weekend while looking for information on local hair salons. I have one I like to use, but the cost of an "up-do" seemed extravagant. So, being the mindful consumer, I decided to see at what prices others were selling their services.

May I say that weddings are a racket?

We could start with the woman at the Snooty Dress Boutique who audibly sniffed when I told her I was marrying in less than two months — and I didn't want to pay for my wedding dress the same amount I spent on my car. As Carole noted, I could pay that much for a dress and, unless the Sniffy Woman is psychic, she doesn't know that. She never will, either.

But then there was the delightful woman at Gossypia who treated me like her favorite client when I just walked in off the street. She literally pulled dress after dress off the rack for an hour, zipping me in and offering suggestions. When I walked out with nothing (only because they didn't have the dress in my size), she told me where I might find it in my limited time frame, even if it wasn't there, then hugged me and wished me the most happiness.

There's good and trying with anything. My favorite cake bakery surprised me by telling me that as I was ordering a cake for a Thursday, I would need to pick it up myself that afternoon. I'll be stopping by there this week to clarify why I need to pick up a cake a block away on one of the least busy wedding days of the year — then, based on that answer, decide if I want the cake or the service.

But then there are the success stories:
  • My favorite nail place told me to just try to call the day before I needed my nails done — but if I couldn't do that, they'd still take care of me.
  • My caterer is a friend who is personally making sure I get exactly what I want — and at a price that takes the sting out of just about every other financial indignity I've faced so far. She is thinking of all of the things I can't, and I am so thrilled. It really is different when I am on the other side of the aisle, so to speak.
  • My friend Louise is making most of my floral arrangements, and all I have to do is tell her which flowers.
  • My friend Laura oversees Old Town Hall, and she has helped me in every way possible so far — and, I know, will continue to patiently answer my questions. (I just thought of another one!)

Once I stop hyperventilating over the cost of, well, everything (hint: do not shop for bathing suits in the midst of wedding planning), I'll call my hair salon and see exactly what the up-do deal is. Vicky said it was the best money she ever spent, having her makeup and hair done. I'm sure she's right.

I just have to remember to pot the plants in the teacups before my manicure — and put myself in the hands of professionals I hope I can trust.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Final Poem to Close National Poetry Month

Ladies and gentlemen, I've had fun sharing poems with you for the past month. I will continue to do so as the year progresses and we slip into the next National Poetry Month.

I leave you with this poem, one I wrote a few years ago. One of my favorite singing duos is Lowen and Navarro, to whom my buddy Rob introduced me a few years ago. I always write poetry at their concerts.

"If I Was the Rain," written by Eric Lowen, has a wonderful verse:
I'd strike a chord within each each heart
wherever they were torn apart —
and if that helped them heal themselves
maybe we'd find out where forgiveness starts.

Wow, where does forgiveness start? I wondered. Many of my poem's images came pretty quickly. I have to say, I like this poem, and I thank Eric and Dan for their creativity.

I've also been inspired by their songs "Maybe Later" and "If You Loved Me Like That," and one of these days I'll share those poems with you.

In the meantime, my fellow poets who contributed bathroom and daffodil poems should keep their eyes on their mailboxes. The rest of you should keep reading poems.

And if someone knows how to edit in indents on this blog, let me know. The first lines of the second and third stanzas should be further right, but darned if I know how!

Where forgiveness starts

Here at the end of the road, where
sharp, dying brown needles from
ancient pine trees block the moonlight,
the blackened remains of the cabin
rests on its haunches, like a cat.
The floorboards that once
hid under my bed are crumbling
planks, dissolving to dust
in my hands, that still
cover the dented, rusting silver
tin sequestering my journal,
its pages blistered by my shame.

My body remembers
the path to the lake, head ducks low under
limbs of scorched, barren cherry
trees, feet tread over decrepit termite-
ridden asp, skim across sticky leaves
then meet the sharp gravel along
shore, where the waves lap delicately,
as though a creature has
langurously glided past just
below the glassy surface reflecting
the quarter moon dappled by
cirrus clouds.

I dive
to the tangle of roots where it was once
safe and wedge the tin securely in
the velvety ooze. Lacing my fingers through
the veins of ancient silver maple,
I finally feel the shocking ice
water wash away your fingerprints.
The obsidian water and the deafening
silence wrap me like swaddling
cloths, and yet they cannot
bind the one who has come
to let go. I float to the surface,
forgiving myself, the last person
against whom I still hold a grudge.

by Chris Fow

Friday, May 2, 2008

Life-Changing Decisions, and the Last Bathroom Poem

I have to admit, I have no desire to go back and change a single thing in my past. No matter how painful, how catastrophic, how collossally wrong, I wouldn't change a thing. If I did, I wouldn't be here.

Here is good. Here is my besheret, fabulous friends, loving family, crazy cats, rewarding job, comfortable house, hybrid vehicle and never enough books. If I changed "there," I wouldn't be here, and I love here.

So here's a poem about "here" for someone thinking about "there." Oh, then a bathroom poem. Enjoy!

Second Chance

In my dream I return
to the place I went
wrong, and given this
chance to change
things, I go on
down the way I went
before. Even in sleep
I know there is only one go—
and it went well
the first time. Where
it didn't- well, it will
be good to see her again.

by Louis McKee
from Near Occasions of Sin. © Cynic Press.

Is anyone listening?

Faces come and go
Some smiling, others frowning
Children splash their hands under my faucet that is in need of repair
An old man quietly sits as he waits for the sound of splashing water
Through my window I can see the Ferris wheel go round and round
Screams and laughter are heard from a distance

I can smell those world famous dogs sizzling on the grill
If I can see and hear all these things then why, why can’t they hear me?
My paint is peeling
It itches my skin
My vibrant colors are no longer there
I feel so alone and nearly in the dark
Two of my bulbs are no longer bright
If you think its dim now just wait till tonight

If you can hear me then please grant my wish
Change my towel
It smells like a dead fish
Coat me with new blue paint but first scrub the rust
Sweep my feet and get rid of the dust

I want to smell nice and have a new shine
If you look behind my stall you may find a dime
I think it shows heads so do pick it up
Use the money for yourself or simply give it away
Just please grant my wish and make me feel nice
A little rub here and a polish of my brass
Is that too much to ask?

by Bill Kitzerow

Thursday, May 1, 2008

These Poems are Necessary

Because every month really is National Poetry Month, let's keep the party going just a little longer. Enjoy these two poems, including one from a recurring poet in our midst.

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

by Stanley Kunitz
from Staying Alive, Real Poems for Unreal Times. © Miramax Books, 2003.

And, because I can't stop giving you poems, here is one of the bathroom poems:

I Have My Own

I have my own
They share

Mine is mine
Theirs is theirs

Mine has a clean sink
Theirs does not

My toothbrush is in my cabinet
Theirs are not

My shower is new
Theirs is not

I don’t share mine
Only in dire emergencies

I don’t go into theirs
Only in dire emergencies

I am happy with my own
They are not

by Maryclare Maslyn

Don't worry, there's more to come!