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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thanks to Rob Ryan for doing my dirty work while I stayed close to home today grading 55 diagnostic essays about food, and also making homemade mac & cheese for the monthly preschool potluck.

Rob tracked down Richard Howard's shoes; they can be yours for only $42.00 (

It just kills me I can't share with you a visual of Howard in these wonders, along with the matching socks and the somewhat matching wool vest. His eye wear is also priceless. I wish I had half his flare for fashion.

More photos (from the BAP blog)

Jill Essenbaum, Jim Cummins, Stacey Harwood

Tina Kelley, Billy Collins, Susan Blackwell Ramsey

The record-breaking ensemble (18 readers)

Mark Strand, John Ashbery, David Schloss (Douglas Goetsch standing behind Strand)

Lost Memory Stick (tell me about it!)

Left to right: Tina Kelley, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, Molly Peacock, moi

So I'm back from New York and trying like heck to catch up with everything I left behind for 72 hours, including but not limited to my rosters, my course plans, my marking pens, the textbooks I assigned, and the time and attention my kids are used to getting from me.

When I saw the flying Budweiser eagle over Newark, I got emotional. I always do. My mom and dad used to come and pick me up in Newark when I flew home from college in Iowa (and later points even further West). It was always good to see them, to get in the car and start heading south on Route 1/9, back to the home and backyard where I grew up--to the grey house on Grove Ave. I can recall the sound of each door in that house opening and closing, and yet it is a place I can never return to. Alas, poor Tom Wolfe, I knew it well!

I took a whole bunch of photos, but I can't find the thingie to download them, so for now you will have to wait for the visuals, except this one sent to me by my dear friend Susan Blackwell Ramsey.

Highlights of the post-reading reading/bash:

Seeing and speaking with Susan Blackwell Ramsey after emailing with her for eight years. She was even more witty and smart in person than in my in-box.

Richard Howard's outfit was priceless and included argyle, but especially adored those b& w checkered slip-on shoes. I want a pair--do you think K-Mart might carry them?

John Ashbery had every bit of the how-can-I-possibly-speak-to-him presence I expected. Even more so. I got nowhere near him, and he was gone when I finally mustered up the courage to strike up a conversation (about what? Convex mirrors?!).

Billy Collins had a serious five o-clock shadow thing going on. I got very close to coming up to him and saying "Hey Billy, I so wanted to hate you cuz you're so damn accessible, but then I heard you on a panel at the Dodge in '02, and damn if you weren't articulate, well-spoken, funny, and more than willing to share with us your cheap shots and shortcomings." But then Doug Goetsch led me over to a woman, which led me into a conversation about wedding rings and having to saw mine off when I'm dead.

It was gratifying to meet Molly Peacock and give her the wave and genuflect simultaneously.

Tina Kelley read her poems exquisitely and wore the most beautiful red velvet dress. She glows and floats around like a freaking angel.

Mark Doty has the coolest glasses--black plastic rectangles! He is taller and thinner than I imagined, a tall stalk of a man, kind and generous.

And there was Sandra Beasley, over in front of an open window with a red & green Empire State Building taking up the entire frame. She has the very best eyebrows of any poet living or dead.

(Do I name drop? Very well, I name drop).

More photos soon. Promise.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Okay, okay, so gasp!

Mostly it's been little cafes. You know, the kind where they don't shut down the espresso machine during the reading, so while you're trying to belt out your best string of alliterations there's this SSSSSFFFFFFFFOOOOYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! in your face. Or . . . the ones where one other person shows up and it's: the person you're reading with! Or . . . you don't read at all, which is lately the case.

So hold onto your hats, ladies, but this (up there, at the top of the page) is where I am reading on Thursday night.

My heart is hurting. I am going to be sick! Get me a freaking pail!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pony Bike!

After months of dashed hopes (the *perfect* bike that turned out to cost $135; the Craigslist bike that involved a trip to Bellevue so I never picked it up; the lack of correct-sized bikes at either Target or Toys-R-Us), we finally landed on The Best Bike in the Whole Wild World Because It's a Pony Bike and Comes with a Pony Helmet, a Pony Horn, Pony Tassels, and a Pony Water Bottle. I kid you not. Since yesterday morning when we clicked "purchase" on Amazon, my daughter's been coming up to me at random moments and screaming "Pony Bike!!!!"

And then, after a pause, "but when is Pony Bike going to get here?" and I have to say Wednesday or Thursday . . . which is of course an eternity, and reminds me that I have to tell her that I won't be home for a few days . . .

because I am going to be in New York City reading, with something like 19 other poets, at the The Best American Poetry 2009 release reading. [If you happen to live near NYC, the reading takes places at Tishman Auditorium at the New School. It begins at 7 pm. Each reader is being asked to read for 3 minutes, so this should cut down on the marathon aspect, though it will still be something of a marathon, but hopefully an enjoyable marathon, with lots of droll humor and more than a little spitfire.]

It will go like this: arrive in Newark just in time for the Wed. afternoon rush hour. AirTrain to midtown, dinner and all Thursday with a high school friend/playwright/librettist (she's taking me to some of her fav lower-Manhattan haunts). Thursday eve: The Reading. Friday: meet up with my best first reader/advisor/mentor extraordinaire/shoulder to cry on, etc. whom I've been emailing back and forth with these past seven years (sometimes 5x in a day) but whom I've never actually had the pleasure. My #1 pen pal come to life! Together to The Morgan Library, the Met, and some cheap wine bar or bars. Friday eve: dinner with editor/ writer/librarian high school friend, who will tuck me into bed for 5 am wake up call for trip back to Newark . . .

And with any luck the Pony Bike will have arrived, been assembled in half an hour (as the customer review promises), and I'll be walking from the light rail toward my house to find my daughter racing up and down the sidewalk yelling "Poooooooooony Bike!!!!!!!" -- the end to a perfect trip.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday was better

Most days aren't like last Saturday. Usually I find the soccer field. Usually I don't take the kids to Target with me. Usually people don't run red lights as we're heading toward them.

Sunday I got the girl a playdate. Sunday the boy had a five-hour birthday party at the Tukwila Fun Center. Sunday I jogged around the Seward Park loop. I shopped the organic grocery, ate my first pluet. Each time I got back into my car, I'd turn on the ignition and the song on the radio was an old favorite. "My Best Friend's Girlfriend" (The Cars). "Every Day I Write the Book" (Elvis Costello). For dinner we had sweet corn, grassfed burgers, sweet potato fries. The argula seeds were in the ground, and I knew they'd come up.

Monday and Tuesday (so far) have been even better. I emailed coach Andrew and apologized. My son has lost interest in his favorite TV programs. I found an illustrated copy of the complete Narnia series for $9.98.

And last night my husband's recipes and foraged food were featured at Lark Restaurant here in Seattle, where John Sundstrom of James Beard Award fame (and his wonderful staff) cooked them to perfection. Porcini crostini. Miniature crabcakes. Farro with a chanterelle cream sauce and local veal (yes, I ate veal. I have not eaten veal since 1977). Huckleberry cobbler with ice cream. I made new friends and caught up with old ones, learned how to marinate a squirrel, reminisced about my high school years in NYC.

Over a late night Campari and proseco with grapefruit juice, a few of us stragglers decided what life boiled down to: Work and Love.

And then the sunrise over Lake Washington this morning, a deep breath of the damp morning air before the all the car exhaust has wrecked it.

Nope, most days are not like last last Saturday. Most days are more like this poem:

Driving Montana

The day is a woman who loves you. Open.
Deer drink close to the road and magpies
spray from your car. Miles from any town
your radio comes in strong, unlikely
Mozart from Belgrade rock and roll
from Butte. Whatever the next number
you want to hear it. Never has your Buick
found this forward a gear. Even
the tuna salad in Reedpoint is good.

Towns arrive ahead of imagined schedule
Absorakee at one. Or arrive so late-
Silesia at nine - you recreate the day.
Where did you stop along the road
and have fun? Was there a runaway horse?
Did you park at that house, the one
alone in a void of grain, white with green
trim and red fence, where you know you lived
once? You remembered the ringing creek,
the soft brown forms of far off bison.
You must have stayed hours, then drove on.
In the motel you know you’d never seen it before.

Tomorrow will open again, the sky wide
as the mouth of a wild girl, friable
clouds you lose yourself to. You are lost
in miles of land without people, without
one fear of being found, in the dash
of rabbits, soar of antelope, swirl
merge and clatter of streams.

Richard Hugo

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A most miserable day

I woke from a dream I'd been caught shoplifting.

I was telling the person who caught me that I had not meant to "steal," that actually I'd just spaced out and forgot to pay, but she wasn't buying it.

Not particularly early (6 am), but by 7 am I'd already played Bunny Money, Penguin Math, Go Fish, and read Wacky Wednesday six times.

By 10 am my son had clocked in two hours of On-Demand Ben Ten Alien Force, and I was on the phone with the Comcast folks, asking them to shut off our service. When they told me I would lose all our reception--even PBS--I consented to a very scaled-down "package," and then I got connected to a guy who walked me through Parental Lock.

I locked Cartoon Network and smiled. I locked On Demand and cackled.

And then I realized we were going to be late for my son's soccer game.

We all went running to the car, me was so sure I knew where the play field was . . . but actually I had no idea, though I drove up and down 15th Avenue South for an hour, determined not to give up, the entire time reassuring Riley we'd find it and he'd have time to play.

We were all kind of car sick from the drive to nowhere, so we came home and planted arugula. And then I had this brilliant idea to visit Recycle Cycle and score my daughter a pink bike with sparkly streamers and white wheels.

When we finally arrived at the cycle shop, the one bike available in her size was $135.00. An outrageous price (twice the price of the Diego bike I thought was too expensive, I kept telling my daughter), but we'd driven a long way, so I let her ride it.

She loved it.

There was no way I was going to buy it.

Again, a most miserable day.

But it gets worse.

On the way to Target (WTF?) my son starts hitting his sister in the head with a giant stuffed snake and yelling "shut up shut up shut up shut up," one "shut up" each time he smacks her. And I'm waiting to wake up from the shoplifting dream, now morphed into the-kids-kill-each- other-in-the-back-seat dream.

We were at Target for three things: underwear, soccer socks, and a bicycle.

But Target no longer carries 16" bicycles. In fact, they carry 12" bicycles, and then the next size is 20".

We got the underwear, but I forgot all about the soccer socks because at that point my kids found . . . the toy aisle.

Say hello to Pinky Pie and her Magic Hair Salon. Say hello to a Bakugan launcher. Oh, and while you're at it, say hello to the biggest pushover since . . . my own mother.

On the drive home we tried to make jokes about what we'd started referring to as the worst day ever. I said something about hey, but we're still alive--at least we haven't had an accident--as the car speeding by to the left of me (we had the green) went right through a red light.

It was so fitting, it almost spooked me.

And then I'd had enough of it. When we got home I loaded our backyard kiddy pool with warm water and bubble bath, and invited the kids to have a bath. They had a blast. I fixed them their favorite meals (mushroom soup and nettle pesto with pasta, respectively), and settled in for another exciting chapter of Narnia.

My kids were clean, fed, clothed, sheltered, and none the worse for wear.

I counted myself one of the lucky.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Not Blogging

I think I am not blogging because (1) sunshine, (2) writing and revising other stuff, (3) setting up bowling pins, (4) free desk and chair came into our lives, (5) see-saw, (6) soccer practice, (7) please, a 14" pink or purple bike.

Or, perhaps, (8) it doesn't seem worth all the effort.

Hi everyone! I am reading a lot of good poetry! Kevin Prufer's National Anthem is lovely, heartbreaking, innovative, and beautiful. The new Best American is out and I would buy it for only one poem, the one Reb Livingston picked for No Tell Motel: Craig Morgan Teicher's Ultimately Justice Directs Them. Or even for this one stanza:

We say they are
the soldiers, but they are not:

they have eyes and
and hairstyles and children
and expressions on their faces

that their mothers remember
on the faces
of the infants they were.