Monday, January 28, 2008

Deaver Street

This afternoon, our neighbor Nicole, sat outside on her porch in the sun. I saw her from here, my office window, down there reading. She is one of the nicest people you'd ever meet, walking around in her bathrobe in the morning and sometimes wearing a Stetson and a big yellow coat in the afternoons. She plants tons of flowers in her yard. By tons, I mean tons: Hostas and begonias and impatiens and about 20 hanging baskets of plants on her porch. She's always working on her yard, though she rents the place. She's French Canadian. Last night, she yelled across the street to tell Pat that she was calling her friends in Hawaii and was looking for her cats. She takes care of five, though I don't know if they are hers, technically. There's a lot of strays around. She likes to take Sammy for walks. Nicole is mysterious; she has an accent.

The neighbors next to her haven't said anything to either Pat or me. We haven't talked to them, either, but we see them every once in a while. They have about eight cars -- Jeeps and Broncos and the sort -- in their driveway most of the time. On the weekends, they'll throw open their front door and if you look, sometimes you can see out the back of their house to the woods and the ravine behind them. They keep their yard immaculate. The grass is cut every weekend. The porch is swept. They wave and smile when they pass me and Sammy on the road as we take our walks, up past the neighbors who throw all kinds of trash out in their yard, things like old shoes and broken mirrors and, today, two TVs, facing each other on the grass. These neighbors speak Spanish; Pat and I don't. Sometimes a wave and a smile are the best things to say, anyway.

In the ravine, up the way some, there's a guy who drives a tractor trailer for a living who lives in his van in the woods. He's got piles of wood stacked up on his land, which he as keeps clean as a well-kept city park, except for all the broken-down vans and a shed or two. Every once in a while, the rig is parked down there -- minus the trailer, of course. I've never seen him, but I've heard about him from our neighbor, Ginger, who is like the Neighborhood Ambassador.

I work with Ginger, who hosts semi-regular women-only poker games at her house. She has two dogs. One is as old as the hills and can't see or hear anymore. She has a patch of herbs next to her house and knows everyone. She asks me all the time if anyone is giving us any trouble or if we heard some fight across the street, in the duplex where some guy who just got out of prison comes in the middle of the night and yells at the woman who lives there with a couple of kids. Pat and I don't hear them. Ginger's bedroom faces their house, so she does.

Down the street live a couple we went to Warren Wilson with. They have two kids. Baby Sam loves Pat's truck, always wants to crawl around in it and push the buttons as he grins. His sister sometimes runs around like crazy and shouts and laughs. Sometimes she won't say anything.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's been, oh, about a year since I was so excited about a story that I could.not.wait to write it. Please don't let lightening strike, but it just happened. That ho-hum feeling just shrugged off. Just now, after I finished a 75-minute interview with Jonathan Trotter, aka Jon Palido, a 22 year old reggaeton artist from... Tobaccoville.

He accidentally fell into music, he said. He was going on a medical and community mission trip to Ecuador a couple of years ago, mainly to translate, but he wanted to add something to the group, so he produced a CD, made 1,000 copies and handed them out to people he met in streets and in shops. He gave all of them away, and he ended up staying for three weeks and performing, once, for at least 3,000 people. Now, he's working on his third album while waiting tables in Raleigh at night. I'm amazed, really, by how there are some people in the world that can move in and out of their native culture so easily, as if that is what they were born to do. Maybe Jonathan is like that. He was born a white boy in rural North Carolina and then go on to be a popular Spanish-speaking hip hop star in Ecuador, Nicaragua, and (soon) Puerto Rico. Amazing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

danger! danger!

Oh, are you going to be sorry I showed you this, via the very, very witty and linky not martha, which I love.

They say it best: "meant to be played incidentally, as a break from work, for instance, or in lieu of sending an e-mail."

And there, my friends, is my DO NOT PROCRASTINATE resolution all busted up and crying on the floor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This winter has been a hard one for me, one where I didn't want to talk to anyone -- and haven't, practically -- and one that has left me feeling a wretched homesickness. It's a weird homesick, though. Are you like me? When you think of homesick, do you think of Dorothy waking up at the end of the Wizard of Oz and seeing everyone? The scene where the world's technicolor has disappeared and there she is in a humble bed, under the covers, crying that she was never going to leave again? But you know, it's obvious, that she will leave because all people do, one way or the other, and then it makes her tears even more bitter and sad? I cried when I left home for the first time. I remember feeling like I was on my own, and the thought frightened me because I didn't know how to be in the world without my family. My identity was theirs. Then it was gone. And now, I feel like my home lost me, not vice versa. Maybe it's how Dorothy felt, minus the benefits of an amazing singing voice and tiny feet.

So, on the way to My Steady Job (MSJ) this morning, I thought about sharing with all of you (well, two of you plus those web crawlers and those persons finding me via a Google search for "Desmond sex"--true, though bizarre, story) some of the things I've been semicollecting lately. These are the little postage stamps of interesting things (to me) that I've been hanging onto. Maybe you'll like them?
  1. Whoever Joe is, it's genius. I've been obsessing about collecting those green checks. What are your goals for the year?
  2. Despite the name that reminds me of Salisbury steak frozen dinners, ReadyMade magazine is genius. Do you already know that? I happened to pick up an issue recently about making a letterpress and found out that I love this magazine (mostly, because I'm fickle that way) that people have been writing about on their crafty blogs for ages.
  3. And speaking of fortunate or not-so-fortunate names, depending, take a look at Lifehacker, which is where I found Joe, I think. Another good find from LH is this keyboarding game/test. Addictive. And I am an exceptionally fast typist, so don't challenge me.

Anything you'd like to share?

Friday, January 11, 2008

goodbye, Claire

I learned last night -- late, I know -- that Solveig Dommartin died last year of a heart attack. I felt stunned by this, though I hadn't seen or thought of her in years. Until the End of the World is one of my favorite movies, even though plenty of critics and others hate it. And, still, I love Wings of Desire.

She was one of the first women on screen who I related to, not that I was ever like her, really, but I always felt that I wanted to be like her: ethereal, careful, wickedly smart, independent, strong, passionate, a traveler. Or that's how she appeared. Goodbye, Claire.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


So on Christmas Eve, breaking all familial conversation topic taboos, I launch into conversations about Money. There we are, in our living room, the Christmas tree lights are on, Pat's mom and dad are sprawled out on the couch, and I have my laptop, checking e-mail. (Please don't ask me why. All the sugar I consumed caused short-term memory loss.) Right then, I started losing it about how tough it is TO GET PAID when you're a freelance writer. I was also going on and on about how I've got this writing life down. The constant angst? Check! The self doubt and loathing? Check! The pained, torturous internal debates on who to pitch, what to pitch, how to pitch? Check!

Oh, wait, I said. I have everything down except the drug and alcohol abuse. But there are 362 days left in 2008! Don't give up yet! Everyone laughed. Then, Pat, who sat quietly in our living room listening to the millionth time about how all of this, offered this: "That's why I want to move to Argentina."

Seriously? Really? What should I pack?

I should say this is not 100 percent out of the blue. He's been talking of leaving for a while. First it was to New York. Then Portland. And apparently that's just not far enough, so Buenos Aires is now the location of choice. This is not helping, particularly the witticisms and beautiful photos. Apparently he spent a lot of time reading about Buenos Aires today since it reached a whopping 10 degrees in the sun today. It sounds better and better, and who needs to know Spanish beforehand? I can mime the universal cupped hand to mouth with the best of them until my tongue and mind adjusts. How much does coffee cost there?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I'm not a weather geek, but I have to say that I practically lept for joy when I walked downstairs this morning to look out the windows and see Snow! Snow! Snow!

It put me in an instant good mood where all thoughts revolved around snow. I wandered around thinking about whether to go to work. I savored my oatmeal, relished my shower. Thought about what I could squeeze out of my closet that would make the best snow outfit. Called my neighbor and consulted about The Snow And Our Jobs. Conviced Pat to drive me and said neighbor to work, wherein she laughed mercilessly at my choice of footwear. (They are flimsy flats, I admit, but I DON'T HAVE ANY SNOW SHOES! And I thought as I looked over my slim shoe collection, hey, people in New York wear stilletos in the snow, why can't I wear something these?)

See? Everything is better with snow!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008, how I adore you: already fun, purposeful, contemplative.

I'm so excited by this new year and I hope you are, too. I'm not sad to see 2007 go, though. Usually I can't wait until the New Year so I can forget all the shit that happened. Or at least pretend to. But last year was one of big change and big efforts. Some were successful, others not so much. But I'm proud of everything that I tried and I feel like I learned some valuable lessons. And in the category of Big Lessons, they came in very small ways, almost by accident: calm down and don't worry.

See, for years, I think my word of the year has been worry. I worry. A lot. Worry, worry, worry. When I didn't and/or couldn't do anything else, that's what I did. Worry about life, about death, about what I'm having for lunch. There's no denying I had a lot to worry about for a long time.

Last year, though, it changed. I quit my job right as 2006 was winding down. I started going to the gym a lot. I spent a lot of time concerned about my health. I tried to create my own career path. Indulgent? Risky? A little foolish? Yes, yes and yes.

And this morning, I woke up in and the sun was streaming in our windows and I felt this surge of optimism. Did you feel it? I'm hoping it's a global surge, that where you are, sitting at your desk or wherever, that you noticed it, too. Maybe this optimism will change some things in our collective American lives that have been so terrible. Maybe it's an every-four-year optimism that I'm feeling, when we, as a country, can urge ourselves to try something just a little bit different, a little bit more just. I hope so.

And maybe it's an optimism that for myself, will bring two new themes out of the ground of 2008: creativity and health. That is my New Year's gift to myself. And I wish you, too, the change and the joy you deserve and want.