Monthly Archives: March 2007

For writers who like to travel

My friend Jonathan just went to Timbuktu. He’s still in Africa, where he plans to remain for a while, experiencing things and writing about his experiences.

Every year or two, he travels around the world for several months. He is also a writer. And, for the past three years, he has sponsored a writing contest, the prize being a roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the world (!) Jonathan has asked people to get the word out, so if you like to write and you’d like to travel, here’s a link to the contest details.

This year, he’s accepting poetry, in addition to fiction/non-fiction/prose, and (along with your writing sample) you have to submit a little thing about yourself and why you want to travel (you have to specify which country, it’s not an open-ended thing). Your entry cannot have been previously published. If you win, you have to go to a country you’ve never been before. And he gets to publish your winning entry online.

That’s it! So what are you waiting for?


Six inches

This is one of the photographs that hangs in my dark basement cube.

Now when I say I work in a dark basement cube, I’m not kidding. I’m in the basement of one of the state buidings, and there are two windows, both of which are set far below ground level. Sometimes, I walk over to the windows (both located in other people’s cubes) and look up at what the weather might be doing. On occasion, one can tell whether it’s sunny or precipitating, but not much more than that.

I took this photograph last spring in the park near our house. It’s a blooming crabapple tree, one of the beautiful reminders of what spring truly is here in Colorado – after a winter of gray and black and white and stark and colorless, the world erupts in green and pink and yellow and purple, color suddenly everywhere. Spring doesn’t last long, at least, not what you might think of as spring – the hot weather usually starts mid-May. But for those few short weeks of spring, I rejoice in the green and the flowers and the color everywhere, while also enjoying the sun on my (sunscreened, of course, I wear it all year) face – come summer, I wear a hat to further help shield my skin from the sun, a mile closer than where I grew up.

Through the fall and winter, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, working in the dark basement cube can be kind of debilitating. I have to make sure I get outside at least once a day for a minute or two to take advantage of any sun there might be. This winter, there was very little until a few weeks ago, and then suddenly it was in the 60s and 70s, spring before the trees and flowers were ready for it to be spring. The photograph in my cube is a burst of color on the dark gray fabric wall, something to catch my eye and make me smile on days that I might not otherwise remember to do so. I’ve been reveling in the nice weather, waiting for the other shoe to drop, because this is spring in Colorado and I’m no idiot.

Hulk has taken a bunch of pictures today of what it looks like in Denver right now. A few trees had started blooming (though not the crabapples), a few other trees had tentatively put out leaves. I knew that the lack of leaves so late in the year meant the trees were unwilling to put up with a late season snow killing their initial efforts, so I’ve been expecting more snow. Also, March is typically Colorado’s snowiest month, and we hadn’t yet had any here. The news last night predicted snow – but they didn’t predict the six inches plus we’d had accumulate overnight, turning the backyard from green and welcoming into white and cold, and I had to wear tights and my stupid clompy boots again, after wearing sandals a few times in the last few weeks.

This is what it currently looks like on the outside of the building where my dark basement cube lurks. The plum tree is bent with the weight of flowers, leaves, and wet spring snow, so different from yesterday’s 65 and sunny. It’s snowed since sometime in the night, and it’s still snowing. Now I am just grateful we had a few weeks of warm before this latest storm.

Tradition and ritual

I was thinking today about the best New Year’s Eve I ever experienced. I think it was the ’99/00 New Year’s, and the evening started off wtih College Boyfriend and I attending a swanky party up in the area where I grew up. Said party was also attended by the moneyed kids, whose parents owned second or vacation homes in the area, and several people I’d gone to preschool/elementary school with. So anyhow, we got all dressed up and went to the party, and it was the most phony scene ever. The only person there who was even a little bit genuine was Oldest Friend who had invited us. The rest of the crowd consisted of bored rich college kids who were already disaffected with life, or ambitious social-ladder-climbing college kids who were trying to get the rich kids to marry them. There was very little festive about the event, other than the expensive alcohol, and after an hour or so College Boyfriend and I left to go to another party.

This second party was held at the ranch where another college friend’s parents lived. Hippies still living mostly off the grid, their house was glass and plants and new-age things, with a sleeping loft above and a well-limed outhouse a short walk away. The party was primarily attended by our college friends or other friends who’d grown up in in the area, and while there was drinking and such, there was also great merriment, with music, singing, a huge bonfire, and dancing. The dancing was nothing formal – more a tribal need to move one’s body rhythmically around a fire because it was a beutiful starry clear night and people were playing music. The party was indoors, outdoors, filling the house and the surrounding area with noise and celebration, with no pretense or ennui to be found. Everyone there was real, and feeling real things, having real emotions, celebrating a signifcant event in a very human way. I look back on that night, and some others similar experiences I’ve had dancing around fires on the beach or at the cabin or at Burning Man, other nights spent in the company of friends, everybody full of joy and participating in making the event a community effort, and realize how lucky I am to have had those experiences. Because if I have to choose between a dirty hippie party and using an outhouse but get to experience that true community again, or a rich kid party where everything is phony, give me hairy armpits every time.

In doing a lot of reading about weddings recently, I’ve come across quite a few things written about wedding ettiquette and wedding planning from a variety of perspectives. While I agree with what most have to say about weddings and what NOT to do, there’s one bit of proper ettiquette that keeps sticking in my craw. See, according to Miss Manners etc., one is only allowed to have one wedding. For me, that’s no big deal – I’m only having one. But I’ve had friends have to work with situations where it made sense to get legally married (ie, sign some paperwork) long before they’ve been able to have the community celebrations they were already planning. I’ve heard of people who needed to do the legal thing for immigration or deployment or medical insurance reasons, and I can understand the argument that the legal wedding is the wedding, and you don’t get to do it over. But there’s no reason (in my opinion) to consider signing some paperwork a wedding unless that’s what it means to you and your partner. To me, the wedding (and the whole reason we’re having one) is to make a formal commitment in front of friends and family – the couple’s community, one might say – a commitment that says We Declare We are Family. Whether that commitment involves a religious ceremony or just some words said by a friend, the important thing is that the couple delares their intentions before the community. If one signs paperwork in front of a judge, but doesn’t feel like that was the true community-witnessed or religiously-witnessed commitment, I don’t think people should feel bad for wanting to have that sort of an event, even if the paperwork’s been signed.

Weddings are one of the few times in this modern life that people subscribe a large amount of tradition and ritual to an event. It’s one of the only days that one gets to play an age-old role, something that is inherantly important to the community as well as the couple involved. It upsets me greatly that there are a large number of people in this country who want to get married and cannot – they can have the public commitment, but they don’t get the legal rights that go along with, just as ettiquette says that those who do the legal paperwork out of necessity don’t get to have the public commitment at a later time. To both of those things, I say fie.

One of the things I hope to feel at our wedding is that sense of hummanness and connection, that the rituals we go through on that day and the people who help shape the event and attend in support will feel truly real. No phonies allowed. I’m not particularly interested in the WIC trappings, nor am I particularly interested in just the legal bits (if that were the case, we could have done it years ago, as CO is common-law and all you have to do is say you are husband and wife in public). What I am interested in is participating in an age-old human tradition to tell our community that we are a team. I think we’re very lucky to have the legally-appropriate genders, and circumstances aren’t forcing us to break our commitment down into a governmental institution. Because as indie as I seem to be, I think some forms of tradition and ritual are very important to people and communities, and I think everyone needs a dose of real connection in this age of isolation.

Max and Laura won, and I have nobody with whom to discuss it!

Yes. I admit it.

I did watch (some of) the uber-cheesy reality show “Grease: You’re the one that we want!”, a show modeled after one from the UK in which the lead roles of Sandy and Danny for the Broadway revival of “Grease” were chosen by the American people over the last several months. The show played on Sunday nights, and so it wasn’t always convenient to watch, but when I had an opportunity I did tune in to see who auditioned, who was good, who was bad, and who was really creepy. I liken my interest in this show to that of my interest in “So you Think You Can Dance,” one of my summer obsessions for the last couple of years. I love dance and musical theater, so it stands to reason that I’d be interested in a show that highlights talented people, plus I have fond childhood memories of the movie “Grease,” since it was the first movie we ever recorded off the TV when we got our first VCR in 1986. I watched that damn thing over and over; I know all the lyrics to all the songs (except the few that were cut for time/schedule, like the one Rizzo sings), and my mom had the soundtrack record album that I loved to play. (Aside: kids these days probably don’t understand the reference “like a broken record,” do they? Nobody except DJs and music uber-geeks play records anymore).

I love watching talented people perform. I love going to the theater, the ballet, or even hearing someone I know sing and play guitar. This show, despite it’s over-the-top cheez factor, was a way for me to get my “talented amateur makes good” fix while waiting for SYTYCD. I watched the first “real” show, with all six potential Dannys and Sandys (seven of each, if you cout the stunt they pulled, but those two were appropriately booted that first week), and I held my nose and tried not to notice the filler and double-hosted ridiculousness. Dannys ranged from being called “Hot Danny” to “Slacker Danny” and Sandys from “Baby Sandy” to “Religious Sandy” because obviously the audience needed to be told what to think about each of the contestants in the first show. I think I saw parts of 2 or 3 other shows, and the ones I didn’t see got recapped brililantly by the forum members of Television Without Pity. This was a wonderful way for me to get filled in on the goings-on without having to actually TRY to see the show.

The last show was on this past Sunday night, and I’d seen the previous one as well, whcn it went from 3 vying for each role to 2. The final two of each were quite different – Austin, the professional, who looked nothing like a Danny and desperately tried to come off as cool and heterosexual, and Max, the somewhat funny-looking guy who came alive each time he performed, and exuded Danny-ness from the first show, were the final two Danny candidates, and I’d picked Max to win from the beginning. The Sandy finalists were the best of the group, but neither of them were particularly notable – the one I liked better won, despite being a brunette, but she never really convinced me she’ll be Sandy. Honestly, though, the character of Sandy is an ingenue, rather than a real character like Rizzo, and you just have to sing well, look pretty, and go from naive to sexy over the course of the show. Not too difficult. Anyhow, I was really on the edge of my seat when they announced who would play Danny, though I knew from reading the TWoP boards that the vast majority of them were Max fans like me.

Immediately after the show was over, I was happy and excited and wanted to find out what other people were saying about the results. But the TWoP boards weren’t working. Nor were they working on Monday or (thus far) today. I simly can’t go any longer without sharing with SOMEONE how I felt about the stupid show, how glad I was that Max won, even though I’ll never see him perform the role of Danny. So there you go. I’d save you all from having to read about it, just as I refrained from blogging about SYTYCD and I mostly refrain from blogging about ANTM, but it appears as though you’re my only hope.

Good Advice Mondays; project updates

*If you’re going to try to hang a bird feeder somewhere in your backyard, and your backyard is frequented by squirrels, don’t try. They’ll figure out how to get to it homehow, and either chew through the cord or jump on it over and over again until the cord breaks. Then the birdseed will spill out everywhere and they can take their sweet time about stealing and eating it.

*Matisyahu makes excellent workout accompaniment. You don’t have to pay attention to the lyrics, but you might wonder about why your born-again cousins are so into him, since he’s Hassidic Jewish. I do.

I’m almost halfway done with the current baby blanket, for a little one due in April sometime. It’s going pretty quickly, and I hope to have it done before she arrives. Then I’ve got two more to make for fall. I think I need to make something else in between, though. Definitely need a little break from blanketmaking – I need more immediate gratification, as even quick baby blankets take a long-ass time to knit.

The recipient of the complicated and time consuming blanket was born on Thursday via elective c-section – despite my friend’s height and build, they were a little concerned about her trying to push the little guy out, since he was measuring so big. She said they were mostly worried about his shoulder dislocating. So he came into the world nearly two weeks early, weighing 9lbs4oz. Imagine how big he would have been had they waited until her due date! Welcome to the world, baby Neel.

When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars

Hear Ye Hear Ye:

Let it be known to all and sundry (but not necessarily All and Sundry) that after several weeks of tearing our hair out and lack of sleep, we have officially picked a date. We’ve had to work around three other weddings, two school schedules, one graduation, and one Foreign Service assignment, all in the next 18 months, and we’re still going to be able to do the thing outside:

March 23, 2008


(yep, it’s a year from yesterday. When we realized that last night, we got a little kick out of it)
(and it will definitely be in Northern California)

Oh my Og, those of you who read this may never know how stressful this whole thing was for me (and us, of course). I sincerely hope that it’s the most drama-laden thing that comes along with this whole shindig, and the rest will be sunshine and lollipops. Dammit.

All of these things are true but one

1. One of my relatives has won several Oscars.

2. I have been in one take of one scene in a movie (it wasn’t the take used in the final film.)

3. I remember watching the Challenger blow up on TV; my classroom was watching the live broadcast. I was only six, so I don’t think I really understood the full meaning of the event, but some of the older kids and the teachers were very upset.

4. I saw the last concert performed by Sublime before the death of the lead singer.

5. I’ve never broken a bone (that I know of).

6. One time, I was 10 feet away from Gwen Stefani’s belly button.

7. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours a night since last weekend, and I usually sleep 7-8.

8. Someone named Brian Foster emailed me this morning. It wasn’t the one I wrote about.

9. My toes are somewhat prehensile.

10. I used to climb all manner of trees, but I haven’t been able to climb one since I was 20 years old.

OK, so which is the lie?