My face is not especially florid this Monday morning, though my pen name did have a busy weekend of living it up that I may write it down. (A nod here to Jack Fritscher– the cop with the body of an NFL linebacker could easily play Kick if they ever do a movie of Some Dance To Remember.) I find myself today feeling grateful that I am retired and have the week off to recover from the weekend, which was at times so pleasurable and euphoric that I was almost afraid I might lose all sense of gravity and float away into the welkin in a state of pure bliss.
I fear whatever I put down here today will be a yawp that fails to reach comprehensibility let alone eloquence. Sometimes it seems as though there is just so much noise in the world. And today I find myself thinking about sounds that are so totally human but do not involve words. From a newborn babe’s first cry to a dying old woman’s last gasp it occurs to me that there are a great many non-verbal noises we can make over the course of our lives. These non-verbal sounds can at times be much more eloquent than words and may in fact convey meanings that are somehow beyond that which can be conveyed with mere syllables of grammar. Perhaps those sounds of great passion or great pain have an eloquence of their own that is also beyond words.
In the album Pyramid, The Alan Parsons Project famously sang the old maxim that ‘what goes up, must come down’, and having spent the weekend way up there I begin the week feeling as though I have come way down from those heights I scaled on Friday and Saturday. I’m reading my friend Susan Wells Bennett’s new novel Just One Note (it’s fantastic by the way) and trying to get my tablet to download the copy of Some Dance To Remember I bought on a whim when I looked it up to put in the link above. I find myself looking forward to Fritscher’s magical version of San Francisco once I finish Susan’s wonderfully imaginative tale about the many ways one woman’s life can turn out. These three words were among the oldest in my drafts folder and I’m afraid I haven’t a clue who suggested them to me. But whomever you are, I do thank you.
Fun has long been my primary motivation for publishing this blog and participating in all sorts of social media. And when it really stopped being fun I had to just take a break. I am genuinely more grateful than I can ever express to each and every visitor who has left a comment for me on this site. I really, really value the comments I receive and the real joy for me is all of the conversations I’ve had in the comments on different posts. I admit that sometimes I try very hard to make my posts comment-worthy, ending them with a provocative question to the reader, that often times does get a number of different people to share their reply. And I really have been amazed at the many wonderful discussions that have taken place.
I am re-visiting the use of Empire Avenue missions to draw comments to these posts. I had saved up my daily income for four days to be able to offer a 25K comment mission. Only to have eight people take the eaves and not leave a comment. And then one of them sent me a flame on Facebook. I really don’t like feeling ripped off and getting into flames and acrimony with people I don’t even know. That just is not how I want to spend my time and energy online. I would so much rather talk about cooking mirlitons. In many parts of the world this hard, delicate squash is known as a chayote, but in Louisiana they are called mirlitons. They are a bit of a chore to fix. You start by boiling them (whole and unpeeled) for an hour or two, until they can be easily sliced in half. Let them cool and then remove the seeds at the center of each. Make sure you get out all of the seed which may have a thick outer layer that tries to get left behind. Dice the mirlitons and set aside. Meanwhile, chop two onions, one bell pepper and one bunch scallions or green onions. Also chop up about a cup of diced ham.
Saute the onions in a bit of butter and oil, then add the mirlitons and the ham. Saute on medium heat for 1–2 hours, until the mirliton is very soft. Season with salt and peppper and add a cup or so of panko breadcrumbs. Turn into a casserole dish and bake covered for 90–120 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional fifteen minutes. Allow the casserole to cool a bit before serving. The mirlitons have such a light, delicate flavor it is always a treat to make this. I apologize that I have done nothing whatsoever to incorporate apples or dinosaurs or a woman named Mercedes into this post. I am trying real hard today to keep my focus on having fun with my blog and meeting people and making friends. I resolve not to worry even a tiny little bit about who does or does not comment on this post. And to seriously consider if perhaps my friend was right when she suggested I was maybe taking the whole Empire Avenue thing Way too seriously.
Vivid. A word that suggests bright bold colors and sharp, well-defined flavors. As my friend Wayne Hurlbert no doubt understands, a vivid painting can be truly re-vivifying. I am contemplating ‘v’ words today on a suggestion from my friend Ruth. I don’t own a Volkswagen and have never committed any acts of vivisection. Frankly, winter is the wrong time to see verdant green fields and forests. Although they are no doubt visible in the other hemisphere right now, and perhaps in more temperate parts of this hemisphere. Soon enough it will be spring and verdant patches will break out all over.
The word vivacious has me thinking of a woman named Vivienne. For a time she published a blog called The Eavesdrop Writer. She had a real talent for over-hearing conversations and using them in short stories. I remember a contest she ran, asking her readers to complete a story she started. I also remember sharing giggles with her over my review of a children’s science book about poop. And then one day, it seems she just stopped updating her blog and I never heard from her again. Sadly, that is what happens with most blogs. However much attention and however many acquaintances a blogger may have made, most times most blogs just stop getting updated. They hang on as not very vivacious ghosts, kept alive by the powers that be at Google and WordPress. To me there is something deeply depressing about an abandoned blog.
Amazingly, I made it through the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds only a couple of days after getting my new tablet. I am so genuinely pleased with my little tabby, and have resolved never to take it to bed with me. When it is not in my hands being used, I keep it on the little tablet stand on the end table, where it is ever ready to provide me with another round of shooting birds to smash wood and ice and kill little green slugs, or to allow me to read from what seems an almost endless selection of wonderful new books. Here is hoping that this finds a fantastic new week off to a good start in your world. I for one am happy to be alive today.
I find myself this Friday luxuriating in the garden of tablet owners. Less than a day after receiving my new tablet (my Third tablet if anyone is counting) I am back at the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds and have started re-reading Jenn Thorson’s There Goes The Galaxy. I am listening to an old Lene Lovich album and thinking to myself ‘life is good’.
I honestly have no idea what this 1971 photograph of New Orleans, showing the intersection of Canal and Royal Streets, looking towards the lake has to do with the search terms ‘garden bay palm’, and yet this image showed up in my Wikimedia search for these terms. The picture certainly brings back memories for me. Although not until many years after the date shown, I worked for years at a Waldenbooks store that was one block down, along the right hand side of the street. Rather like David McAlary’s mother in Treme, I came to take the streetcars rather for granted. Although at some suitable elementary school age I had a birthday party on the streetcar. All of the parents brought the children to the streetcar barn where we boarded and were taken for a a round trip all over town. We had cake, ice cream and presents on board and all enjoyed a birthday party travelling the streets of New Orleans.
I find myself wondering if perhaps it is the palm tree (mostly hidden behind the stop light and no left turn sign) that caused this image to come up. There are lots of palm and banana trees in New Orleans, though I more associate giant oak trees like those that line St. Charles Avenue as the iconic trees of New Orleans, which lies between a big river and a big lake. It is a ways inland from the Gulf of Mexico, a sea much too large to be called a mere bay. Here’s hoping you’ve had a great week and that it’s a happy weekend in your world. And finally today my thanks to David Forbes who suggested today’s words.
The real problem, honestly, is that we don’t have and can’t afford to get a maid. I have mentioned before that I am a bit of a slob, and I hesitate to tell outsiders about Mount Laundry. Making it my New Year’s resolution to bring down Mount Laundry– which is almost certainly both more useful and more doable than last year’s resolution to blog every day in 2012. So I bought eighty dollars worth of quarters and am committed to continuing to do a few loads at a time until such time as all of the closets and dressers and cabinets are filled with clothes and there are only a few empty baskets where Mount Laundry now towers threateningly in the corner of the bedroom. Or until I run out of quarters. (My late huzband Joel worked at times for both Eddie Bauer and London Fog and bought rather an awful lot of very nice clothes both for himself and for me. It is a sad fact that too many nice clothes can be a real burden when it comes to keeping up at the coin laundry.)
I have started editing the manuscript of last year’s blog posts and am considering calling the book Poking Straight Guys On Facebook. It is such a provocative title, and I do think that the title essay is a good centerpiece to build the volume around. I have a great deal more copy to edit and plenty more time to think carefully about what I want to do with the material as a book. In looking back at the essays I published in the early part of 2012, it was somewhat startling to me to notice in the comments so many faces that have dropped by the wayside and off my own personal radar. It almost seems as though the audience that I am attracting now is mostly a completely different audience than the one I was attracting last January. I’m reminded again of the old saying about ‘three steps forward, two steps back’. It does seem to me sometimes that those are the basic steps to life’s dance. It’s good to remember that if you stick with them, you always end up one more step ahead.
I tend to suspect that my friend Sharon, who writes about her life as a mom to several kids in a laugh out loud funny manner reminiscent of the late, great Erma Bombeck, probably does a much better job of keeping her house clean– the amazing accidents and incidents with her family not withstanding. I honestly don’t know why Sharon assigned me these words. I’m sure if she were assigned to blog on these three words she would come up with a long and hilarious piece, perhaps about how the maid did come and the house looked staged and ready to slip the chocolate chip cookies in the oven before the open house and her kids managed to un-do 300 dollars of professional cleaning within 30 seconds after the maid left. If you’re not already familiar with Sharon’s writing, do take a few minutes to visit Sharon’s Mom’s Madhouse. It really is a hoot.
I find myself today thinking that what I really need is a patch that alleviates the painful symptoms of withdrawal from tablet computing devices. Mere months after getting my ematic Genesis tablet– which I had been so pleased with– I regret to say that I have somehow managed to destroy it. It appears that I somehow managed to shatter the screen, which shows a web of cracks all over the surface. When I turn it on, the screen does not respond to any touch. I am frankly baffled at how I managed to crack the screen while I was asleep. Though I’ve long been told that I am an athletic sleeper.
I suppose it is a measure of my addiction to tablets that mere hours after discovering my poor tablet is toast I am already shopping for a replacement. I recall when my first tablet died, I ordered another one almost immediately. I expect I will do so again. I wasn’t really addicted to Angry Birds. Though I admit I have been trying over and over again to do the one I was stuck on. You have a whole bunch of different birds to kill three slugs beneath all kinds of wood and ice. I can often get two of them, but the third one is elusive. Part of me worries that even if I do get a new tablet and it does have Angry Birds installed on it, who knows how long it may take me to reach the level I had been stuck at. Starting over is fairly easy, and is perhaps the one thing that everyone has gotten skilled at these days. But it is never the same.
It seems to me that measurements are one of the least useful things in social media. While it is trivially easy to count, say, how many Likes a status update receives, these numbers are inevitably quite disconnected from the real exchanges of ideas and emotions and the relationships with other users that are the real meat of social media involvement. It seems as though every week or so users are bombarded with yet another tool that will analyze their history on some site or another and provide a pretty graphical report about what they are doing right or wrong. I believe these reports to be usually less than useful and at times dangerous in that they may cause people to mis-direct their energies and efforts away from real interaction with their audience, in pursuit of numbers which don’t ultimately mean much of anything.
And finally today, my thanks to Kamal Bennani who suggested today’s words.
This time it was the shoes that saved me. As once before when the pictures from my image search were quite unusable until I came across a bat flower plant on a Goth blog that gave me an image, this time the classic stylings of Cordwainer brand shoes provided an image that is dressy and distinctive. And certainly more appealing than a plaster replica of a shoulder blade or a variety of the charcuterie that the word pate would be if you put an accent on the ‘e’. I however chose to read the word as pate, like the top of a bald man’s head, rather than a very rich and filling cocktail food that I never make and have only rarely eaten. (When I worked at a bookstore, I hosted an autograph party for the ladies who wrote the Kosher Cajun Cookbook and the Kosher Creole Cookbook. They brought a platter with pate and crackers, and after the signing party was over, they left the remains of the food with me. I took it up to an office and had it for my lunch. It was really delicious. However by the time my shift ended at 5 or 6 in the evening my stomach positively ached from having eaten so much of that very rich food.
I put on my clerical hat and pasted most of last year’s 294 blog posts into a text document. I still am very much up in the air about a title, and definitely plan to edit out some of those 294 entries. Though I believe that when I’ve edited out what I want to be rid of and added an introduction and an afterword it will be right around 100,000 words, which I believe is a reasonable length for a book. I am thinking that I will not attempt to include any of the comments on any of those posts (I’ve had over 4,900 hundred comments since I first started this blog.) I am thinking that the point of the book is to get my writing before new readers. And the eBook will be well-linked to the blog and readers will be able to connect to the blog and see and participate in the discussions. To be perfectly honest, I decided that I really did not want to go through the process of attempting to contact each commentator and secure permission to use their comments in a book.
I am deeply and genuinely embarrassed over the fact that although I talked about writing a new missions guide for Empire Avenue or a new missions section for my existing book Walking Down The Avenue, literally all year long. And never did publish an updated edition nor a new stand alone guide. My knack for procrastination has been fully on display on this blog over the course of the past year. There were in fact a fairly large number of posts that I am not whole heartedly proud of. And yet, it seems to me that it has throughout this year been that it was the combination of so many different themes, from suffering bi-polar disorder to navigating the health care system to blogging, social networking and a number of other peculiar personal interests that has made this blog work. Pasting from WordPress to word processor leaves very messy copy that will have to be gone over with a fine tooth comb prior to publication. (Plenty of time to make a decision about title and what supplementary materials to add to the actual blog posts.)
And finally today, many thanks to my friend Laura Sykes for suggesting today’s words.
Many, many moons ago as a freshman at LSU in Baton Rouge I took an introductory geology course. I remember really struggling to sort out all of the epics and eras, although the names for all of the various sorts of rocks were no picnic either. I also took several years of high school Spanish, but I don’t recall in either of those classes ever coming across the word caliche, which is a type of sedimentary rock formed of calcium carbonate. I probably never saw any caliche in Louisiana or here in Washington, though I’m given to understand that it is common in states like Kansas and Wyoming.
Another word borrowed from the Spanish that I have been much more familiar with is ceviche. Ceviche is a dish with raw fish that is marinated in an acidic juice, often lime or lemon. I remember reading about a variation of this called poisson cru, which a Polynesian woman prepares for a visitor to Tahiti in James Michener’s novel Hawaii. Tahiti sounded like such a lovely place and I suspect had I been there I probably would have tried the poisson cru. While I have eaten and enjoyed sushi at times, I’ve never actually tried ceviche.
I have really been enjoying playing Angry Birds on my new tablet. I particularly enjoyed the episode with the puffy red birds that bounce. Somehow that episode seemed easier to me and I have already completed all 63 chapters of it. And was delighted to find that completing that episode opened up two additional new episodes. My tablet is also ideal for reading Kindle ebooks and I really like being able to switch between game play and reading modes. I found myself thinking that I did not pay much more for this (about $60 including shipping) than my parents did many, many years ago for a calculator sized device that played a sort of version of football which involved manipulating a handful of solid red lines around a tiny screen. Part of me thinks that we must have brought more imagination to electronic gaming back then when there was nothing but a few red dots. But I have to say I do like the exploding birds that kill little green slugs. And finally today, my thanks to Harold Gardner, who suggested today’s words.
PS–zinnias are a flower, which is pictured in the illustration. I could not think of anything to write about zinnias.
I find myself listening today to an old album– Spandau Ballet’s Journeys To Glory. I vividly remember owning the vinyl 33 1/3 disc, which these days would seem such an archival object. I found myself explaining the Way Back Machine Internet Archives over on Holly’s latest guest post about Idealism Vs. Pragmatism. What this music mostly makes me think of however is a blog post I wrote some years back. It is always strange it seems to me the things we associate with different pieces of music. The mind it sometimes seems to me really is an exotic jambalaya of seemingly disparate ingredients which somehow meld into a coherent whole. Perhaps that is the miracle of life.
In retrospect, it seems to me that even in those earliest days of the books blog I was mostly writing personal essays. It seems fitting to me to have finally realized that what I meant to do all along is in fact what I have been doing all along. Which may also explain why even though it is still December and I have not in fact finished by ‘blog every day in 2012’ jamboree I seem to have already switched to the Monday and Thursday posting schedule that I had been contemplating for next year. Somehow, it seems like such a jumbo jolly good idea that I am unable to constrain myself from implementing it right away, the forfeited 2012 challenge be damned. I believe that I will be much better able to promote two posts a week and reply to all of the comments I will be able to generate and that I will overall benefit more from this focused activity than by forcing myself to crank out a new post every single day. I am frankly glad that I gave myself the blog every day in 2012 challenge. It certainly caused me to look closely at posting frequency and helped me to realize that twice a week is ultimately a much better schedule for me on this blog. My sincerest thanks to my friend Laura for suggesting today’s words.
It sounds like a new show on FOX network. I can see the self-important Project going on about putting cameras into ordinary windows to spy on people. The next big hit, no doubt, destined to make shows like Big Brother seem almost scripted and passe. Some days I feel like the only who is just so not into the whole reality tv thingy. When I worked for an outsourcer that did customer support for the provider for the 24-hour live web cams I actually followed a season or two of Big Brother, and a bit more enjoyably it’s UK counterpart. And frankly one summer when I was getting paid for it was more than enough of that kind of programming for me.
Privacy seems like almost a quaint notion, in this day and age when I am almost prudishly private in almost never including my face picture with most any project I am associated with. I am perhaps the only person I know who doesn’t have a web camera, because I don’t want one. Even with trying to be a participant in the constant global conversation that is always going on somewhere in cyberspace, I think that I value my privacy rather more than most people. I have to wonder if this folks who put their faces right out there, next to their names every single time, if they ever feel….well…over-exposed? I get it that we’re all eventually supposed to have our own 15 minutes of fame. But am I weird for not wanting my own mug to be displayed on everyone’s computer screen all over the world every single time I post something? Am I less successful for keeping my face somewhat more private? Or does privacy really mean anything at all in the Internet era?
My thanks to Quentin Karmark for suggesting today’s words.