Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, Y'all

I'm getting on a train tonight -- 22 hours in a teensey private room with Brian, then Christmas day up in Vancouver with my grandmother, assorted aunts and uncles, and my Thompson cousins. So, until blogging can resume, here's a little treat I found on Schmutzie's website:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh, Tannenbama (or, Yes, We Tannenbaum!)

So we went and got our Christmas tree the other night.

When we got near the lot, I told Brian, "Stand here and go like this with your hands and I'll take a picture."

So he did.

I really wanted to get our tree here, because Obama looks so festive there with all the lights, and because it's in an abandoned lot that I used to walk by on my way home when I worked at New College.

The lot's next door to an abandoned house with painted landscapes in the boarded-up windows. I love abandoned things, and I've wanted to poke around in this lot for years. Thanks, President-elect Obama!

But trees there were like ten dollars more than the ones at the Delancey street lot (on Sanchez and Market), which is closer to our house. So we got a tree there.

Then we took it home and decorated it with popcorn and cranberries. There are actually a lot more strands on it now (a few with hot peppers on 'em, even!), but the camera's over at Brian's studio, so the pictures I took the other night will have to suffice. Sorry internet. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Then, while I was poking around in the chest where we keep things like ornaments and bits of clutter that need to disappear before guests arrive, I found this series of drawings I made a few years back when Brian and I were bingeing on classic Doctor Who. I think this was around the time we first made our acquaintance with the monster cat, as is evidenced by their subject matter. Apologies for the poor picture quality -- I'll scan these keepers someday.

(Oh! And in the interests of bringin' it all back home, have you seen the Dalek Christmas tree?)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AAAAAAAAAAAAAH! ... Oh. Nevermind

So yesterday, I got a letter in the mail from my insurance company. The letter, which had looked so benign in it's bulk-rate envelope, contained the surprising news that my insurance had been canceled on September first of this past year.

Now, as all two and a half of you readers out there know, I've had a rather exciting few years, medical history wise. And it was absolutely not my intention to have canceled my health insurance. So, I was a bit surprised.

I called the 800 number listed on the letter, and spoke to a very nice woman who let me know that "all my policies" (dental and life) were current, and that nothing had been canceled "except for that old policy that was canceled earlier this year."

As the conversation unfolded it turned out that the health insurance policy had been evaporated due to lack of payment. Over the summer, you see, I had this whole snafu with my credit card involving weird charges and fraud and such and culminating with a new card being issued, and when I called the insurance folks to change my automatic billing information, they somehow had changed the billing information on only two out of my three policies.

"This is kind of frustrating," I told the nice woman on the phone who of course had had nothing to do with this course of events, "because the woman I spoke to this summer assured me that all three of my policies had been updated, and that everything was fine."

"I can send you an application if you'd like to re-apply for health insurance," she replied.

And then I had to get off the phone very quickly before I started sobbing and/or forgot the manners I learned on my mother's knee.

So I stayed up late last night, staring into the darkness and trying to figure out how I could get health insurance, when here I've had three surgeries in as many years and have handily used up my $3,500 annual deductible without even trying, and now I've got a note on my record stating that my previous insurance was canceled because I up and stopped paying for it and oh my god I'm going to end up paying an insane amount of money for even the eenseyest bit of coverage and die toothless and alone of, I don't know, consumption or something.

Finally, at about four in the morning, I decided that I wouldn't panic (any more) until I'd called again and tried a bit more forcefully to get the folks at the insurance company to see things from my perspective.

So I called again today and spoke with another nice lady. She offered to send me an application so I could re-up my policy, and I explained how that wouldn't really work for me, because of my medical history and the whole not-my-fault "non-payment" issue, and did I mention that it wasn't my fault? And she went and talked to her supervisor, who looked back at my file and saw that, oh, oops, there had been a computer foul-up that they'd discovered in a bunch of other people's accounts but had somehow missed in mine, and it never should have been canceled to begin with.

So I'm insured again. And the good news is, if I survived the past twenty-four hours, my heart must be pretty darn healthy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Mother

For this extra-special Poetry Thursday, here's some Horace, by way of Ezra Pound.

This monument will outlast metal and I made it
More durable than the king's seat, higher than pyramids.
Gnaw of wind and rain?
The flow of years to break it, however many.

Bits of me, many bits, will dodge all funeral,
O Libitina-Persephone and, after that,
Sprout new praise. As long as
Pontifex and the quiet girl pace the Capitol
I shall be spoken where the wild flood Aufidus
Lashes, and Danus ruled the parched farmland:

Power from lowliness: "First brought Aeolic song to Italian fashion"—
Wear pride, work's gain! O Muse Melpomene,
By your will bind the laurel.
My hair. Delphic laurel.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Because You're Paranoid, Doesn't Mean They Aren't Out to Get You.

Brian and I had very half-assed plans for Thanksgiving, which fell through as such plans are often wont to do. This is actually kind of awesome. Even though we basically spend every waking moment together, we'd both been secretly harboring the desire for some quiet holiday alone time (with each other that is), away from the bustle of friends and family. So we've planned for a perfect him-and-me day, a day of Lord of The Rings movies topped off by far too much food for two reasonable people and some snuggling. I picked out some recipes, and tommorrow we'll enjoy our quiet and romantic holiday of dork movies and comfort food. Perfect.

So anyway, today I headed out to do my Thanksgiving shopping, figuring, it's just the two of us, how hard could it be to find and buy the ingredients for our simple yet Thanksgiving-y meal?

Answer: absurdly. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a cornish game hen in this town, the day before Thanksgiving? Five stores and a trip across town, that's how hard.

But that isn't what I wanted to tell you about. The most interesting part of my shopping excursion happened at the very beginning: I was walking down our street (in the direction of Bi Rite, my first fruitless foray). It was raining, so there I was, yellow boots and rainbow umbrelly, when I looked up and noticed a small group of French tourists ahead.

The reason I noticed them was that one of them seemed to be taking a picture. The reason I noticed that was because my nose was itchy, and just as I looked up and saw the camera, I was sort of schnirrfing it against my mitten. There was no penetration, mind you, it was a perfectly acceptable outside-the-nose schnirrf, but still: not the pose you'd like to be sporting in some random (French, no less) stranger's holiday photo.

Anyway, we passed one another, and after we passed, I wondered what had been so scenic that they'd decided to take a photograph in the first place. I walk down this particular street everyday -- it is, in fact, my street -- but I'd never noticed it as being particularly aesthetically pleasing, other than in your basic no-place-like-home kinda way. So I turned, thinking maybe this is my opportunity to see the street anew, as others see it: a scenic, quintessentially San Francisco, view.

I turned. And, Reader? They were taking a photograph again. Back the way they'd just come. Of me.

So it got me wondering: am I famous in France? I have no illusions about the readership of this here blog. If Maggie Mason is "famous among dozens," then me, well I'm famous among multiples of zero. My readership consists of close relatives and former college roommates on a good day. But could some small cadre of Gallic blog enthusiasts count me as their hero? Does my writing translate better somehow, into French? Or did they just like my umbrella?

P.S. I have invented the best pizza ever: roasted fennel and shallots, with sage pesto and apples. I am a genius. Notify the French.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cameras Came Then to Replace Descriptive Paragraphs

I took a class this weekend with Lynda Barry called "Writing the Unthinkable". In it we did lots of five-minute exercises designed to dredge up memories and excavate images. I'm going to try to keep doing these, and post the results every day. Sometimes I might draw pictures, too. Sometimes I might post the same thing as the day or even a week ago before, but with new bits added in. I really have no idea.

Oh, and I stole that title from a poem by Martha Ronk.

I am with Mary in our bedroom. We're sitting on the carpet, playing with the dolls we got as a hand-me-down from Mrs. Marshall's granddaughter. I'm holding Custer, Mary's is and Indian. Their legs are bowed, like they're riding horses, but we've already killed the horses.

"They bleed and bleed, until just water comes out. That's how you know they're dead," Mary says. Mary's always explaining things like that. Shes' two years older and has already started school. I'm scared, the way I always seem to get scared. How much do you have to bleed before water comes out? Are the horses dead forever? I don't remember ever playing with them again.

I can't remember ever playing with the indian again, either, or even what his name was, or if he had one. I think his horse did. And for years, bow-legged Custer haunted the bedroom, hiding beneath the bed, standing on top of the white plastic shelves, propped up against the wall, crashing barbie parties with his blonde mustache and his painted-on army clothes.

The top bunk was heaven. We took the horses up there, and the indian, and Custer, too. Mary's patchwork blankie was the clouds. The sun shone on the treetops outside while Mary and me hummed taps and Mary told me how the indians buried their dead in treetops so their souls would be closer to heaven. Later that day, I wondered how you'd recognize your family in heaven, if everyone were ghosts with the same big black eyes painted on their long white blankets.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Shoes!

The weather's gotten colder, bringing my lack-of-comfy-shoes-that-aren't-sandals into stark relief. And then today, as Brian and I were waiting for our sammitches, I saw them in a store window: a pair of clown-yellow Doc Martens, just my size:

My choice of socks this morning was just a happy accident.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Things I never knew about my (paternal) grandmother

1. She got her BA in nutrition because she loves science.
2. She prefers clean-shaven men.
3. She's the one that gave my great-uncle Buzzy (nee Oskar) his nickname.
4. Her dad favored her younger sister. "That took a while to get over."
5. She still wonders if she could have saved my grandfather's life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's Open Studio Weekend!

In San Francisco? Come see the art!

2221 15th St., side door, 11-6 Saturday and Sunday. Hope to see you there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wherein we take the art for a walk

Brian's participating in ArtSpan's open studios again this year. This time, he'll also be in the group show at the SomArts Gallery (on Brannan St., right by the Trader Joe's). He finished his piece for the group show last night; this morning we brought it over to SomArts. Here it is in his studio this morning, right before we headed out. The show opens October 5th.

This is the smallest piece Brian's made in a while. We were both a little excited about how portable it is (that's not a portal into some woolen vortex, by the way. Just my sweater).

Here we are, waiting for the train.

This is the only picture in which Brian doesn't have the 'Woman, why do you insist on taking my photo?' look on is face.


Up the escalator

Through the station,

And finally we were there.

"Are you taking pictures of my butt?" Brian asked. Yes, sweetie. Yes I am.

Brian's studio will be open the third weekend in October (the 18 & 19), from 11 AM to 6 PM. He's at 2221 15th St., through the side door by the garage. Hope to see you all there.

Want more photos of art, and less of my nonsense? Check out my flickr page

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The only thing keeping me sane this election season

Is this song on repeat.

(And as an aside, why isn't Sharon Jones ten times more famous?)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Back when I had an office job, I was often amused by the post-it notes that adorned my desk. Sure, I'd written them, but more often than not they seemed to have been left for me as signs by some alien intelligence intent upon making itself known. "Mailbox fix?" they asked. "Axial yoga?"

Now that I have neither a job nor post-its, my computer is left to carry on the task of confusing me with my own past ideas and inquiries. My google search window remembers past inquires and makes suggestions as I type, filling in what it thinks I might mean from just a few letters. So now I'm wondering, when did I google 'epic poem colma underworld'? And what on earth was I looking for?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A New-to-Me Meme in Honor of Sarah Palin

So, after reading in the news this morning that Sarah Palin tried to force her town librarian to ban books that 'some voters might find objectionable, here's a list of books banned at one time or another in the US. (I originally wanted to list the ones Palin tried to ban, but couldn't find a list anywhere). Books I have read are bold. Books I have loved* are bold and italicized. Books I'm gonna run out and get from my library are just italicized.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio (I've read bits of this -- plus all of 'The Women's Decameron,' which is awesome.)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (wait, that's not by Judy Blume?? O! All my memories of fourth grade are cast into doubt.)
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence (does it count if I just skimmed for dirty bits?)
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective (remind me to tell you my 'the first time I read the word anus' story).
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles (I might have loved it, but I took the line about 'sarcasm being the last refuge of the weak' a little personally).
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff (Despite jr high rumors to the contrary, I don't read dictionaries in their entirety just for fun -- though the occasional page or two can be an awesome way to dither away an hour. Also, this was banned? wtf?)
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

*My criteria for whether or not I've loved a book? If I automatically think, "Omigod yes" after reading the title, that's love. Anything less is a strong like.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I've been away for what feels like forever, but was in fact only eleven days. Brian and I went to visit my parents in Massachusetts for a week, then spent three days down in North Carolina visiting with my maternal grandmother. Do you want to see pictures? Of course you do.

Before we left, Brian and I talked about whether or not we should pack the camera. We went back and forth, and when we got to Massachusetts and the camera wasn't in my bag, I figured we'd decided against it, after all. Then, three days before we were set to go home, I found the camera in Brian's backpack. So this is the first picture I took of our trip, one week in. You'll just have to imagine all the fun that came before.

While we were in North Carolina, we visited Old Salem, a Moravian settlement that's been restored into a hybrid living museum/posh neighborhood.

It was one of my favorite places to visit as a kid.

The houses are all really cool and old, and you can still see the numbers that they carved into the beams as they were making the houses. It was kind of like a proto-Ikea: they assembled everything in one place, then put it together as a community, clip clap clop, just like that.

Anyway, it was fun, and a little humbling to simultaneously revisit my own past and that of this long ago community, to sit with their well made buildings and books and furniture, and think about my frivolous and largely idle life.

Plus, I saw a really cool bug. You can't really see it in that photo, but I promise that it's there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I've decided that I should myself as I would a wayward child: discipline, structure, and a generous application of dessert treats as rewards. Writing (for the fun of it, to remind myself it *is* fun) every day for at least a half an hour upon waking, enforced hygiene (brush your hair one hundred strokes and shower at least every other day). If I haven't grown up to be the adult I would have liked, then by golly I will raise her myself.

In other news, I may have finally gone insane.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Achilles came to Troyland

Lts Krause and Sawyer at the Stillwell Hotel

The man on the right is my grandfather. The man on the left is, I'm guessing, someone he trained with at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. On the back of the photo, in my grandpa's messy handwriting, he's identified as "Lt Krause."

My grandfather took a fair number of photos of his days in the army. I can't help but wonder, looking at photos like this one and of smoke breaks and swimming holes and men and artillery, what happened to the other men. Did they make it home? Are they still alive today?

My Grandaddy Alan, Europe, WWII

By the same token, I can't help but wonder about my grandfather. I know the basics, of course. I knew him, I remember him. I saw the man he grew up to be and I know how and when he died. But my grandfather -- who he was before I knew him, who he was when I knew him but never thought to wonder: who was he?

I guess the wondering is part of that bigger questioning: what makes us who we are?

If I had a day job, I'd keep it.

I don't know why, but I've been having trouble writing lately. It doesn't matter if it's for my own private paper diary, this here blog, paid web-work or just a grocery list. I'm just blocked.

When I was a kid, I loved drawing. "It makes my brain feel good," I'd tell my mother. And it did -- like nothing else ever. Drawing was the only thing that made me feel fully engaged, fully present in the moment. It was good, and I was good at it, the best in my class, except for that one new kid in third grade who drew really good spaceships. But he vanished the following year, so no harm done.

I wonder sometimes if I should have pursued art, gone to school and learned illustration, or just kept drawing until I figured out where it might take me. I think that's why 'personality type' tests depress me -- there's this feeling of inevitability to being a type: I could never have turned out any differently. This is the best of all possible worlds.

The other day, my cousin Molly and I visited the Lucas Arts office complex here in San Francisco (one of Brian's ju-jitsu buddies was doing some freelance work there and generously offered to squire us around). It awakened an odd mix of feelings, mostly frustration. Why didn't I ever think to go in to special effects, I wondered. Why don't I write rip-roaring adventures, the kind that burrow into the popular imagination? What's wrong with me, that I can't seem to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, when I've been grown up for some time now. Where's my freakin' Yoda? And why do I waste my time thinking thoughts like that, when it's the doers that I envy? Wouldn't doing be the best antidote for this paralitic broody melancholy?

So I'm drawing when I can't write. Then, if I feel ready to write all of a sudden, I'm already sitting there, pen in hand.

Anyway. In the meantime here's a picture I drew of our visit. No cameras allowed at Lucas Arts!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

γνῶθι σεαυτόν


Why do I find this result depressing?

Because I'm a Enneagram Type Four, and we're self absorbed, melancholy bastards, that's why.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Robert Graves

She tells her love while half asleep,
In the dark hours,
With half-words whispered low:
As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.

I first read this poem in high school. I'd just devoured I, Claudius and Claudius the God, and I wanted to be Robert Graves when I grew up. It was, quite simply, the most shockingly sexy thing I'd ever read [and I'd read Clan of the Cave Bear!].

Friday, July 11, 2008

Higher Quality Memories

I kind of like te effect I get from taking cellphone snapshots of old photos I like. But I have to say, there's something to be said for this scanning business. Here's that photo of my great-grandfather again (click the picture to see it larger).He's all dressed up for World War I. Luckily the war ended soon after this photo was taken.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ghosts and Houses

The last few nights, I've been spooked at bedtime, reluctant to sleep in my darkened room. I've been leaving the bedside lamp on. It bothers me and makes it hard to fall asleep, but without it I start to imagine all sorts of things, like torsos, headless and legless, crawling up onto the bed, or strange figures watching from the foot. I never see anything, mind you, but the thought alone is enough.

When I first got here, when grandma was still in the hospital, I slept the sleep of the unimaginative, knocking out as soon as my head hit the pillow and not stirring until late every morning. And for the longest time that held steady, even when dad was here and the sounds of him stirring about at night sent my imagination scurrying.

But now, I lie awake forever, alert to every sound, catching shapes and shadows from the corner of my eye. Maybe it's the steady dredging of family photos and memorabilia -- staring into the faces of long-dead ancestors, reading their letters and asking questions that my grandfather would know, but isn't here to answer.

For instance: Is that a parrot in the top right corner? Were we once a bird-owning family? And whose summer home is that, who's at the piano?

I find myself wondering, are we a happy family? It's a funny question, and not one I'm comfortable asking my grandmother. In fact, I'm not entirely comfortable asking myself.

The pastoral landscape of my childhood could and did conceal any number of long-dead battlegrounds. But whose life doesn't stand on foundations that shift and creak sometimes in the wind? Tolstoy said that happy families are all alike and unhappy families unique, but I wonder if happy families might not be just as complex and distinctive as unhappy ones, their unique troubles soothed into another narrative, their private struggles forming the hills and valleys upon which future generations stand.

Were they happy then? Are we happy now?

I think it depends on what story you decide to tell.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Losing and Forgetting

My grandmother's always losing things. The first day I was back up here, it was her glasses; she and I were getting ready for a walk, and she materialized beside me in a pair of huge, circa nineteen-seventy-two frames. "My prescription needs changing," she said. "These are good for now."

"Ok," I said, and we went for a walk, her in her big frames and over sized angora coat with large ivory buttons, and me in a tee shirt and jeans, because it was in the high seventies and quite pleasant, really.

Later that night, when it was time for bed, I walked in to find grandma, half undressed, rooting through closets and drawers. "I can't find my glasses," she said.

"Are these them?" I asked, holding up the large frames she'd worn all evening.

"Those are my old ones. They're okay, but they make me dizzy after a bit."

She and I sorted and searched for a half an hour, finding more old glasses, some in cases marked with the address of her optometrist in Washington D.C (which makes them at least as old as me), and bits of African sculpture socked away in drawers, and various other bits of flotsam and treasure that come from living eighty siz years and never throwing things away.

Finally, I convinced her it was time for bed. "We'll look again in the morning," I said.

"Perhaps I left them in the backyard and the mower ran them over," she said, looking worriedly out the window.

"Maybe," I said, thinking she'd probably lost or broken her glasses weeks ago, that a new pair had been ordered and that this search was probably one of those futile echoes that tends to plague her now that she's grown old and prone to worry and forgetfulness.

The next morning, I had a hard time getting her out of bed. "Is it morning, or afternoon?" she asked at 9:30 when I opened her curtains to let the sunlight in.

"It's morning. You've slept late, but it's time for breakfast now."

I went downstairs, and listened to her stirring above me. She's gotten a lot more independent than when she was first out of the hospital, and I've been trying to give her privacy and room. She's used to doing things on her own, I figure, and probably doesn't want a great gallumphing granddaughter shadowing her every move. After a half hour had passed, I went upstairs again.

"I can't find my glasses."

"I know, we can look after breakfast."

"But haven't I had breakfast?"

"No, not yet. The table's set and ready to go." My stomach was rumbling. I'd been up since eight.

"I wonder if I left my glasses in the shower..."

Downstairs, I straightened the front room, listening to her footsteps as she searched from room to room and wondering how on earth I'd corral this woman, this unstoppable, independent mother who raised five children and cared for my grandfather when he had Alzheimer's and who hiked the length of Vermont when she was a teenager. How do you convince someone that they're no longer the authority on their own lives?

And then, under a sofa cushion, I found her glasses, the one's I'd nearly convinced myself didn't actually exist. "See there?" I said to myself. "Give grandma more credit. Grandma still knows what's what."

After a joyful reunion with the right glasses, my grandmother finally made her way down to breakfast.

"Are you sure it's not lunchtime?" she asked as I bustled around, getting tea and orange juice.

"It nearly is, grandma, but we haven't had breakfast yet."

"But your flight didn't get in until the afternoon."

"That was yesterday."

"Oh. Right."

And then we ate our breakfast, and then we went for a walk.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poetry Thursday: Rupert Brooke

Menelaus and Helen

Hot through Troy's ruin Menelaus broke
To Priam's palace, sword in hand, to sate
On that adulterous whore a ten years' hate
And a king's honour. Through red death, and smoke,
And cries, and then by quieter ways he strode,
Till the still innermost chamber fronted him.
He swung his sword, and crashed into the dim
Luxurious bower, flaming like a god.
High sat white Helen, lonely and serene.
He had not remembered that she was so fair,
And that her neck curved down in such a way;
And he felt tired. He flung the sword away,
And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there,
The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.

So far the poet. How should he behold
That journey home, the long connubial years?
He does not tell you how white Helen bears
Child on legitimate child, becomes a scold,
Haggard with virtue. Menelaus bold
Waxed garrulous, and sacked a hundred Troys
'Twixt noon and supper. And her golden voice
Got shrill as he grew deafer. And both were old.
Often he wonders why on earth he went
Troyward, or why poor Paris ever came.
Oft she weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent;
Her dry shanks twitch at Paris' mumbled name.
So Menelaus nagged; and Helen cried;
And Paris slept on by Scamander side.

Ok, so I'm a bit obsessed with the Trojan War. Which translates fairly naturally rather roundaboutly into a mild obsession with Rupert Brooke. It lessens a bit, as I get older and my affinity for youth and tragedy and tragic beauty wanes, but there'll always be room in my heart (and my lectures) for ol' Rupert.

So, Brian and I are in the studio today, and, as usual, he has the TV on while he's working, while I, as usual, have my headphones on and the music turned up as far as I can so that I can write and ignore him.

Until M*A*S*H comes on, that is. M*A*S*H is a show I used to sneak off to watch in our all but TV-free household, a bit of childhood memory-ville I find particularly hard to tune out. Especially when it awakens my other obsessions. As with this particular episode, which opens with Klinger lying out in the Korean countryside, reading Rupert Brooke.

"I love Rupert Brooke," I said to Brian.


"He's so tragic. He died on the way to the battle of Gallipoli, you know."


".....Rhumatic fever? I think? Maybe?"

"Romantic fever?"

"That's more likely."

It was sepsis from an infected mosquito bite, actually.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

It's freezing. Brr.

I want my seasonably hot weather back.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Too darn

It's hot. I always say that I miss the summer heat but really? Not so much. Not when it's actually here. The only times I like it are a: after dark, and b: when we're here in Brian's basement. Speaking of the Brian: how many times can he watch the same Sopranos episode? A: a lot.

This is becoming an annual tradition: the weather's hot for a few days, and I write a blog post about how we San Franciscans have a deal with the Powers That Be: a few earthquakes, the occasional heaping of scorn from the Bible Belt, and in return we get weather that hardly ever falls below 50 or rises above 70. Is that too much to ask?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Up in the air

I'm at the airport, killing time before my flight home, which has been delayed two and a half hours. You'd think that would be a good time to catch up on work or personal writing, but instead it's mostly been spent trolling airport gift shops, fondling the smoked salmon and books of Northwest Coast art. And now blogging. Productivity: not my strong point.

We had a good visit. My grandmother seems better everyday, which makes for a funny combination of feelings -- relief, of course, that her health continues to improve, with a touch of awkwardness. What to do, when she needs me less? And how to know when to step in, and when to allow her privacy? It's an odd balancing act, and one that nothing in my life thus far has really prepared me for.

Anyway. Home again. I'll heading back to Vancouver in July, when my darling seester will be up from CT. If anyone actually stamped my passport at the border (why don't they?), it'd be looking pretty fancy.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I'm gonna go try and find me some airport art to look at.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Even More Family Photos

My grandfather, beatnik phase

My father, eccentric phase.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More Family Photos

My grandparents (and my grandfather's reflection) at their wedding.

Grandma, my dad and I found this in an album last night, after Grandma's birthday dinner.

"You look so young!" I said. "How old were you?"

"Twenty five?" said grandma.

"That is young."

"Twenty four? Twenty three? Twenty two?"

We all laughed. "Young!"

Family Secrets: More Prosaic Than You Might Expect

It's 8:31, and Grandma should've been up about a half an hour ago (no reason, really. She just set her alarm for 8 AM last night when I was putting her to bed). About a minute ago, I heard her stirring upstairs, so I went up, glass of water in hand, to help her get dressed and ready to face the day. As I walked into her room, she shuffled out of the bathroom and crawled back into bed. "Could I get fifteen more minutes?"

Could it be she's not really a morning person? Apparently, my up-at-six-and-off-to-exercise grandma and sluggabed me have more in common than previously suspected.

In other news, I've started moving like my grandmother. Last night, as I straightened the kitchen and again this morning, as I opened the blinds and made coffee, I found myself moving slowly, placing my feet precisely as if I were a much smaller and more fragile than I actually am.

I need to go out someplace and dance around like a clumsy maniac.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I've been trying to casually work this into a blog post, but it just won't cooperate.

So there's this urban legend I heard once, about this woman who's in an ice cream shop when she notices Jack Nicholson is standing next to her. She plays it cool, completes the ice-cream-for-money exchange, and heads outside -- only to discover that she no longer has her ice cream with her. As she's standing there trying to figure out what on earth has happened, Jack Nicholson walks out of the shop, sidles up to her and whispers, "It's in your purse."

So anyway, last Tuesday found me in the airport, passport and boarding pass in hand, waiting for my delayed flight to Vancouver. I'd just left an embarrasingly smooshy face message on Brian's voicemail when I truned around to discover myself right next to a small family who'd just disesmbarked from the plane I was going to take up to Canada & were sorting out their strollers and such. The mother looked familiar. I checked out the baby. Familiar. I checked out the dad. Familiar.

Ohmigod, y'all. It was Maggie Mason.

I stood there, openmouthed for a moment or so, then rushed away, all star struck and much too shy to say "helloIhaveyourbookandwowyouguysarecuteinreallife." And then I spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out what on earth I'd done with my passport (I'd stuck it between the pages of my book in all the excitement).

In other news, The Ice Cream for Money Exchange is totally the name of my new band.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Some family photos

My grandmother and my aunt Carol, hiding behind the rhubarb leaves

One thing I always do when visiting my grandparents is pore through all the family albums. It's just a more elaborate kind of narcissism, I suppose, but I've always been somewhat soothed by looking at these sort of reflections out into the past.

It seems to soothe my grandma, too. She's in the early stages of dementia, and is often scared or sad, but I brought in some albums yesterday, and she and I had a lot of fun talking about her mom and dad, and her uncle Bruno (a dentist who made a set of bridgework for his elderly beagle), and the long hair my uncle Brian sported for "just a short while" in the 1970's, and how my dad's bedroom was filled with so many gadgets that it was hard to find the bed (note to grandma: nothing's changed on that front).

I've been taking pictures of some of the photos I especially like with my cell phone camera. I feel like a bit of a sneak thief, but I actually really like the look of these snapshots-of-snapshots.

Grandma in hat, on boat. My aunt Carol's there in the background.

My grandparents on the steps at camp, sometime in the late 60's. My great grandmother Erna Heininger next to my grandma. That's the top of my great-uncle Clem's head there in front of my grandpa.

Me and my dad, circa 1982 (ish?).

My sister and me. Mary's on the porch at camp. I'm smack dab in the middle of the awkward stage.

My grandma with her mother.