Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anthony Bourdain Woke Me Up Early

I woke up thinking about writing and also that I had to meet someone at the gym and then meet with one of my writing groups and after that meet someone else, briefly, plus grade a poopton of papers AND get them entered electronically (deadline: Monday) and translate them into the new district-mandated, supposedly-objective but as it's turning out WILDLY subjective and bizarre grading "system". . . then I tried to go back to sleep. Five hours is not enough sleep for what I have to do.

Then I thought about writing again. Thought about how I'd gotten up at four every morning for over two years, reading and writing harder than I ever had, scaling back on the "busi-ness", saying no to a lot of things I say yes to now. And how good it felt. So I got up.

I thought I could start with yesterday, and am putting aside the nagging manuscript revision that I'm halfway through. I was halfway through it five weeks ago, too, but there's been a lot of happy hullabaloo to be busy with and so. For now, I'll write about yesterday.

The day started with a bookmaking workshop for educators at the Kaneko (cool place! Very cool place!) with Gary Frost and his partner Joyce Miller. I made a book! Actually, three little ones, one of them hardbound. No words yet.

Then I went to an Eid feast with my sister's new family. Actually, they are my new family, too, cause that's how they roll, and I'm good with it. There is a wonderful healing feeling spending September 11 in the home of kind Muslims. When I get caught up, I'll tell you about the wedding. (That's the sisters, old and new, down there.)

Finally, I slipped out early with my niece Fran and we raced down to the Holland Center to see the deliciously irreverent and hot-from-afar Anthony Bourdain. These tickets were purchase by her mother/my sister many months ago because Fran and I both love him; Kathleen also (most generously) obtained some of the coveted meet-and-greet after party tickets, but even without that, the seats were amazing.

If you've never been to the Holland Center, it's a gorgeous venue, an acoustic dream of pale wood and subtle lighting, more suited to Yo Yo Ma than a punk iconoclast food writer. All these months waiting, I kept thinking, "Bourdain at the Holland? What the hell?" I guess since cutting back on the cable channels I'd managed to forget he was a TV star. But when he walked out and the crowd went wild. . . well, he's a rock star, and for the next couple of hours, he never let us down. Started out sharing stories about embarrassing run-ins with people he'd publicly slammed (i.e. Rachel Ray and suchlike.) Moved on to snarky Food Network gossip (I know almost none of the food stars he was talking about, but it was still funny) and then to personal tales. Ranting, wicked, he was ON.

But here's the meat of it: As punky and ranty as he can be, he's deep down a very old-fashioned guy. Food and people matter; treated with respect, they enrich our lives. (Oh yeah! See "Eid feast" above.)

Anthony Bourdain has grown in his travels, matured with fatherhood, thrown away the earring and the Ramones t-shirts. He still drinks too much and still seems to think that's the only way to do his job (and that's where the not-as-hot-up-close factor really goes geometric) but he still occupies a dark little table in my heart, holding forth over a grappa or a pint of Guiness. So yesterday was a good day. And I'm late for the gym.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Eco Challenge

CrAzy busy, and yet I have time to lose hours. . . but there are some pretty cool ideas over here that give me hope when hope is needed.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ireland, Day 1?

Well, it's 4 am and I'm wide awake. Maybe this counts as Day 2. Can't tell what time my body thinks it is but I can tell you that sitting on the tarmac for 2+ hous in NY and then flying with 2 little mini-Vikings kicking (my seat) and yelling the whole way over the ocean did not help me get much of a jump on rewiring my inner clock. All the melatonin did was muddle.

So yesterday was a weird blur of wandering and napping. Ventured out from the hostel a few times but mental fog was so acute that a block away I'd start to think I was lost or about to be.

I finally have a good wifi signal.

OK, tour some ruins today. Will repeort back then.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Racism Is Alive and Well in the Heartland

Well, they did it. The town of Fremont, Nebraska, population just over 25K, passed the Arizona-esque anti-immigrant ordinance making it illegal to hire or rent to "illegal aliens." Yes, I prefer the term undocumented. I'm one of those people who find it somewhat unsavory to call another human being illegal.

And no, I'm not saying let's throw our borders open. We need to fix this problem, improve security, all that. It's a complicated mess. But laws like this are so fueled by racism and ignorance that it makes me sick to my stomach.

A friend of mine over on the Facebook keeps tossing out this topic for discussion. Some of the responses are really nauseating. Some of those posters are avowed Christians. I wonder if they take their Christian hats off before talking about other human beings like so much unwanted garbage. Can't figure out how that works.

When I think about the "illegal" people I know, I don't think of them as lawbreakers, any more than I think of myself as a lawbreaker when I occasionally drive over the speed limit. I might justify driving too fast by saying, "But I don't want to lose my job/appointment with the chiropractor/good seat at the movie."

Likewise, many of the people who cross the border justify their lawbreaking with excuses like, "But my children are hungry." If I had children, and was in a situation where I could not provide for their health and safety, I'd do whatever I could to change that. I'd cross borders to feed them, and probably wouldn't wait the years required for the uncertain process of getting legal permission to do so.

I've often wished for a national strike day where all the "illegals" took a day off. How many factories and restaurants and landscaping services (and countless other businesses that work in the background of our lives) would continue to function? If they took a week off, it would be a national emergency. And my classroom would be a sterile place indeed.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Getting Fitter

I accepted the special summer school gig because 1) $ duh, and 2) the hours, 10-2, are vastly superior to the regular summer school gig, 7:30-11:30.

I am at my best, physically and mentally, in the morning. Working regular summer school would force me to squander precious writing/gardening time in a computer lab monitoring unhappy "repeaters" as they slog through a preset online credit recovery program. Instead, I roll in at a very civilized hour and work with small groups of incoming ninth graders who need focused attention on reading skills. How I accomplish this objective is Any Damn Way I Want. Pretty awesome.

But here's the rub: in preparation for my trip to Ireland (oh my god, real soon!) I embarked a few months ago on a physical tune-up, if not overhaul. I’ve never been what anybody would call athletic, but I have been far fitter. The ravages of age and a sedentary avocation have led to issues with knees, feet, and, even more menacing, the lower back. This lower back business had increased in direct proportion to my commitment to my writing. Anyone with back issues knows that sitting for long periods can be much more exhausting and painful than walking.

So. A couple of months ago I thought I’d try acupuncture. After the very first session with Ellen, the veil of pain I’d been wearing was stripped off. The back still hurt, but less. The constant drain on my energy seemed to be gone, enough so that I started thinking I could maybe try getting into a little better condition-- maybe I really could jaunt and caper about Ireland in a holiday way. Maybe a Zumba class, something to loosen up my back. I called the sisters and they were in.

Somehow, in our search for a class, we ended up joining a health club and signing up to work with a trainer who will henceforth be known as KillBill. Ok, so, you’re never too old for transformation, right? And at the club I met a young chiropractor giving out “samples” of a new technique, ART, which works with muscle and tendon injuries, and he is not only taking my back to new levels of heath—he has actually reshaped my feet, which had so many misaligned bones in them that I’d almost given up the hope of walking without pain.

Long story shorter: I’m feeling much better, fitter, less trepidatious about my journey. But? The writing and gardening have been sorely neglected. Every morning for the last few weeks, I either go to the club or to the chiro, and physically that’s a great thing. But my spirit has felt somewhat deprived. Today is the first day I did neither. I felt a little funny about it, but while getting a few things done in the yard—a wee bit of weeding, sprayed the apple trees for rust – I found the writing returning, and thus this long overdue post. Even if nobody reads it, I’m grateful to know that while regaining other physical freedoms, I haven’t lost the ability to type. Sometimes you just have to skip the gym.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Big Balk

No excuses. I thought it had been maybe a month since I posted, but it's more like a month and a half, and the longer it goes, the balkier I get. I get balky. I don't know why, but it happens too frequently-- I start to feel overexposed, start to regret ever opening my mouth, both metaphorically and otherwise.
Here's Merriam-Webster on balk:

So I don't know exactly why the word balk seems to be the best choice for the feeling I have about writing these days, but it's probably a combination of #1 and #5. I need to get to the plowing, I need to complete some motions.

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