My Writing

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Those Few Great Moments

The Hours is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, in fact, I read nearly the entire thing again. At times I would start to cry without recognizing my reaction right away, as if the story was in more control of my emotion than I was. It was definitely a book for me, because like most people, I’ve always tried to figure out what it is about life that makes people happy, what makes people persevere or strive, and why some people can never seem to find any satisfaction or contentment. Michael Cunningham condenses the life’s source of happiness (or pleasure, or contentment, or whatever you want to call it), in a way that’s neither too bleak to handle nor too optimistic to allow yourself to believe it:

We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

When thinking of my own life, there are memories that jump out at me–moments of complete happiness that I’m grateful I got to have. They belong to me, they are exclusive to me, and I will have them as long as I’m capable of remembering. Of course, I want more. I would risk spoiling one of these moments to try re-creating it, or topping it. With this, my destructive nature in mind, I want to honor those moments the best I can and dwell in them a little longer. It has given me a prompt for at least three creative non-fiction essays I should have already written.

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Triolet for Robert Plant

Happy birthday to Robert Plant, who is 68 today. Robert Plant is (should I say was?) the singer and primary lyricist for my favorite band of all time, Led Zeppelin. I was easily sucked into the history of the band and haven’t yet read about Mr. Plant’s life before it, but he is an exceptional writer and singer and I can’t imagine any other voice in his place. It’s hard to read Zeppelin lyrics without the context of the music because they’re so recognizable, but to me his writing is accessible–a next-level understanding of things situated in reality. In that spirit I wrote this poem.

Triolet for Robert Plant

First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.
You can never be too late, too old, too spent—
First, find your gift. Then exhaust its full extent.
Accepting less than best breeds spite and discontent,
and a mediocre life is not a life revered.
First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.

This verse is a triolet, an 8-line repetitive stanza following an ABaAabAB pattern. Most examples I noted were also in iambic pentameter so I went for it, but I deviated quite a bit. I prefer to work with a syllable count and let the meter come naturally. It was a neat little exercise, anyways!

The Worst Fate

The Worst Fate

No one succeeds at a stand-still, waiting…
Waiting for Fate, for their dreams to come true,
for days significant and life-changing.
When life is no more than a scene to view,
it isn’t living, it’s just sustaining.
What another soul might have done with you!
The worst fate is the fate you do not make,
a life bound by chances you did not take.

This is my effort at the Ottava Rima, an 8-line ABABABCC stanza. I choose to go with 10 syllables per line, though the form most often suggests 11. Kind of like an abbreviated sonnet, Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium is a good example of how the brevity and sing-songy-ness of the form in stanzas can contribute a sort of timeless, tale-like quality.

California Dreaming

After spending a week in Southern California soaking up the sun, a feeling has stayed with me. I’m not really sure what it is, but as relieved as I was to come home, I’ve also had this sense that my home has changed. It doesn’t seem the same as it did when I left.

California is absolutely a place for dreamers… As my husband and I waited at an outdoor table in Hollywood for our In-N-Out burgers, a woman with a blunt black bob, pale skin and red lips paced along the sidewalk and read lines from a script. California is also a place for crack-heads, foreigners, bros, the “forever” young, and strategically placed rich people.

It has, is, and probably always will be an inspiration for many… It’s where Led Zeppelin went to “make a new start,” where Don Draper escapes his real life, and the place Marilyn Monroe called home for most of her life.

Although I felt moments of pure West Coast Wonder, like the shallow pit in my stomach at the sight of a wave twice my height rushing towards me, or the smiling-while-I-ate satisfaction chewing mouthfuls of fish taco, or the flush of goosebumps at seeing my heroine’s hand prints in 63-year-old cement, I also had an overall Big Picture experience. My world, and my life, is very small. Just a grain of sand–maybe one of the many that settled in my bikini bottom for most of the trip, but a spec none-the-less. When I left home, I felt content. When I returned home, I felt insignificant and my world small. Do I want to be significant and my world big? I’m not sure about that, either.

I suppose everyone has moments of “what if” and “what else,” it’s just where and when they pop up that are unique. I suppose that’s the untold consequence of travelling.

Are Movies Getting Worse or Am I Getting Old?

Here we find ourselves mid-2016 award season, and I find myself becoming less and less excited over new releases. Looking for a Saturday night date this past Valentine’s weekend, my husband Sean and I trolled through the local showtimes and came up empty handed. I had a medium interest in seeing The Revenant, but not enough interest that I couldn’t wait for it to come to Redbox. Sean wanted to see Zoolander 2. I didn’t even want movie theater popcorn enough to sit through it, though I have to admit I did think the first Zoolander was funny.

I remember not that long ago when I couldn’t wait for new movies to come out… I think the last movie I was really amped up to see was The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Now, I rarely see features that even peak my interest. Maybe that’s just a part of getting older. What happened to all the really great movies that had me making plans and buying tickets in advance? Do I have to starve for that anticipation just because I’m not a Star Wars fan?

Instead of a going-out date, we had a stay-at-home date: pizza and a rental. Despite the bonus of being cheap and leisurely, I also found that there weren’t many new release rental titles that looked very interesting. As a fan of thrillers, I picked Crimson Peak (Sean picked Jurassic World, which we have yet to watch). I thought Crimson Peak was very beautiful visually, and I actually found the plot to be fairly solid for a movie about a haunted house. Even with some room for improvement, we really couldn’t go wrong since the rental was free with our pizza. Not to make this all about money, but where I live a movie costs $10 – $14. I can skip the candy, but I must have a bucket of popcorn the size of my head: $8. Then a tub of Pepsi because of all the salt: $6. For two, that’s over $30. Even though that isn’t much, if the movie is awful, I just paid over $30 to see it. I heard a blurp on public radio suggesting that the price of admission should be based on the quality or demand for the movie. Though it sounds logical, it’s highly unlikely. In that reality, though, I wonder how much tickets would be for Zoolander 2, The Boy, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The most telling part of this whole harangue is that on Sunday, I found more enjoyment in catching the last twenty minutes of Casablanca on Turner Classic Movies.

Ill-anelle, or, The Hypochondriac

Do I feel warm? Put your hand on my head,
I’m burning up, but my hands are cold.
I think I’m coming down with something bad…

My neck is stiff and my eyes are red,
And look—-I never noticed this weird mole.
What do you think? Put your hand on my head.

I could have forgotten to take my meds,
and I ate some chicken that was getting old.
I may have caught something seriously bad!

Maybe pox? Or measles? Something that spreads?
You could have it, too, something out of our control.
Hold still; let me put my hand on your head…

Honestly, you seem fine… But I feel half-dead!
I read about this in Diseases, Foretold
You should always assume it’s something bad.

Don’t I seem woozy? I should be in bed…
And that incessant humming; it’s taking its toll!
I’ve got to get an ice pack on my head,
I’m in real pain here, and it’s worse than bad!

Nice Try…

It was on this day in 1919 that the 18th Amendment, otherwise known as Prohibition, was ratified in Congress with the intent of keeping America clean and dry. With the support of various “temperance” groups and religious collectives, Prohibition was instituted to reduce crime and increase morality (in theory). Unfortunately, just like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” so it goes that “booze doesn’t make a criminal, but a criminal makes illegal booze.” Prohibition only lasted 13 years, and the 18th remains the only Amendment to ever be repealed.

I find the 1920’s to be a fascinating time in American history. Despite the drought, I love the spirit of the time–you can see it on people’s faces in old photographs. I wrote a story called Tails about the oldest son of a poor farming family who sets out for the big city to earn a living, only to be caught up in the world of a busy speakeasy (I was 19 when I wrote it). Whether the story was any good is debatable, but I still find the period to be a major source of inspiration.

If you have three minutes, check out this video from the History Channel that sums up the details nicely. A great anecdote if you’re going out tonight!