It’s the end of June
and the threads between me and the internet are getting thin as gum. Stretched gum. Or silly putty? You can see it.
My backpack is heavy with Margaret Drabble, Tin House, Elizabeth Hardwick, Jenny Offill, and some seriously outdated technology. I don’t think I’d have the heart to ditch any of these books, but the zen part of me and the part who cares for her shoulders both think it would be nice to read and shed. If only the little free library thing would take off at airports.
I am really grateful to the editors of The Kenyon Review for making room for my story, “Mezzo,” in the summer issue. I’m excited it’s there. So excited that I took a picture of this empty water carafe like a jerk.
A slippery slope, apparently, because next I took a picture of my food. But look at those little bacon and green bean bouquets! Herb butter on lamb! This place was amazing. We went back and back. I also ate life-improving goulash at the same table, but that’s a story for another day.
Tomorrow I have an essay about the mail and my father and me going up at the Millions. Check it out?
If you have any way at all
of listening to Randall Thompson’s unaccompanied choral setting of Walt Whitman’s poem, “The Last Invocation,” I say: listen.
and if you do not, here is the poem, and you can probably hear music in it anyway.
At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful, fortress’d house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks—from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.
Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks—with a whisper,
Set ope the doors, O Soul!
Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O love.)
This will take the form of a list
not because it’s clever but because lists are a frequent bedtime ritual around here (hand-scrawled, often on the back of opened mail, or other lists) and it’s almost bedtime.
Was hoping to attend a Milton conference at Stanford today. But, after some pre-8AM internet mapping, it turns out that getting to the south bay on a Saturday morning without a vehicle you yourself are driving (or a Google bus) is not easy, and even if I’d taken the earliest of early trains I would have missed the panels I wanted to hear, so now I’m going to do the lame thing and chase down the papers, which may be the same as the best thing.
Have been reading Chekhov again. More on that — on him — to come. Maybe. Or maybe not. (The stories reduce me to adoration, and I have to work back up to something, after reading them.)
Have also been reading a lot of other stuff on the internet - articles, literary - but have failed to establish a hard+fast system for documenting this reading history for myself. If you, dear reader, have one you love, let me know. This is the year I think I turn to systems to win life.
Went back to an older story of mine this afternoon, surprised that I was permitted in again. Added the words “manor house” and “junkshop.” That should do it. (Just kidding! It was more of a revision than that.)
Ordered some books from Powell’s, which does this charming thing: it sends you your receipt, like, 10 days after you place an order, allowing you to forget you ever ordered books, and then the receipt says, oh these are coming in about 10 days, and you are like: Yes! Time to forget again. I have no clue what books I ordered, but trust that my slightly younger self picked well.
I hung my laundry on the line but did not check the weather.
Robb St. Lawrence, a friend and former colleague at Minnesota, is writing about climate narratives and how an awareness of flction plotting could inform the way we talk about this set of crises and might — (this may be my wonkish brain going where it will) — move the policy needle. It’s serialized! Robb is a really talented thinker and you should read these pieces immediately.
I read the back issue of “The Normal School” I picked up at AWP. They are doing some interesting things, she said generically; you should check it out. The one I read today contains the Ander Monson mixtape essay and Steve Almond’s manifesto on writing ‘smut.’ But other great pieces. I guess if I’m going to write about lit mags here the impulse is to be ecumenical but the other impulse is to be brief, and these impulses are at odds.
At this moment, every sock that I own is clean, and paired.
Ran in the park. Almost got run over by a soccer mom (kid passenger had a soccer outfit on) who did not stop or even slow as she turned right into the park (and almost over me). I waved and called and waved, and I hope if that kid asks why that lady was waving so hard she will tell him, and worry for a moment about the day he is old enough to go running beyond the soccer pitch, and slow freaking down. The rollerskating plaza, bustling every other time I’ve passed it, was boombox-free and nearly deserted today, except for a lone skater, who appeared to be rehearsing an ice-skating routine.
Later I ate pho, and began Justin St. Germain’s SON OF A GUN.
This is the item about internet dating: I think I am the last person on the earth not to have tried ‘tinder,’ but that’s okay; I have a reputation as a late adopter to uphold, and, as we can see from my blog, image is not exactly my default medium. Meanwhile, considering a tumblr called “hats and torsos.” Basically what it sounds like : a place where people could post screenshots of de-identified dudes’ profile pictures that depict them in a hat, or as a torso. But then I thought a) that would probably get shut down really quickly by whoever is running the internet these days or b) it already exists, and I just don’t know about it. (See late adopter.)
Failed to make the quinoa thing I have all the ingredients for. Tomorrow!
Have had some really great catch-up calls with long-distance friends of late, and appreciating the phone part of my phone more than usual. I owe some people letters. I appreciate that this is a deficit situation, feel lucky.
I’m not against hats, per se. There are just so many I don’t understand. Like trilbies? That there is demand for numerous variations on this graphic on the internet amazes me.
the impulse to copy out all Mary Ruefle essays, m-stop by m-stop, and carry them around like a many-paged love letter, being the kind of person to carry such letters around and not put them in a drawer.
"We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love—a connection between things….That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That’s why I read when I was a lonely kid and that’s why I read now that I’m a scared adult. It’s a sincere desire, but a sincere desire always complicates things—the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe—what else is there?
…In our marginal existence, what else is there but this voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?”
—from “Someone Reading a Book,” Mary Ruefle
The Maltese Falcon, Steve Nash, and the Great Computer Backup of 2014
As part of what I’m calling the Great Computer Backup Project 2014, I undertook a subproject last night, called, figuring out what the hell is on my desktop. A place that I’ve kept, well, inclusive.
You know, a little of this, a little of that.
There was the normal stuff: double-downloaded pdfs, timesheets, Joe Biden pics, screen captures that prove I applied for an NEA and filed my taxes. But there were also weirder chunks of text and pixel, many unattributed, such as this conversation:
You mean the Maltese Falcon?
It’s an eagle.
Okay, well, I call it a falcon.
It’s an eagle. It’s just like the one Lynn gave us.
And this brief character study, embedded in a text file called “taxday”:
bartender called harmless
worked with him at place called smiling moose
did not steal my computer
Maybe, I thought, this is what pinterest is like, only in reverse.
"Taxday," otherwise undated, also suggests I must have briefly waded into internet dating territory that year, based on a cut-and-paste times new roman note from one Bradley, who goes to great length to describe his reaction to Ira Glass’s reaction at the end of a certain This American Life episode, and then closes by saying he’s "always up for tea."
The file contains no evidence of a reply.
I found some other things I forgot or maybe blocked, including proof I wrote poetry as late as 2011, and, apparently, an Open Letter to Steve Nash.doc.
Also found: Kaiser Family Foundation fact sheet on Medicaid and the uninsured, a draft of a white paper on Heparin I worked on, and a series of haiku I wrote on a choir bus somewhere between the Quad Cities and Minneapolis, fueled by red vines and existential fatigue.
And this screen capture, which I named “JonStewartcrushphoto.”