Thursday, July 11, 2019

Where do you wanna go? Michigan 1997

How old do you have to be to be nostalgic? I recently realized—I know, pathetic—that time is flying. My own millennial is turning 30 this year. I bet she never thought she’d be this old.

I, on the other hand, am old. I deserve to look backward and wax nostalgic. Past summers, riding my bike down hot sticky asphalt roads, milkweed swaying in the breeze, wishing . . . someday. Someday is here.

I like to listen to All Songs considered—a national treasure from our government. National Public Radio works very hard at archiving the music of America as well as discovering new voices. So with All Songs Considered and the Bob Brolin Playlist (updated every Tuesday via Spotify) I am introduced to music I might not find all on my own.

Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along
Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along.

This is a song for millennials who are turning 30. For the kid who is about to get married, maybe have a kid, who will forever be paying off their school loans, who will always be one catastrophe away from ruin. Who make craft beer in their garage.

Dandelion wish in the wind
Talking with my imaginary friends
In the backyard in Michigan

We create stories
Of who we used to be
Like looking for a ghost in an empty house
When the future is too hard to see

Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
It’s okay if you don’t know

I believe there is a theremin playing during the opening chords of this song—which lends itself to that feeling of longing. From the Internet: the band formally known as Holy Golden is now Dolly Valentine.

Remember that song, “In Five Years Time” by Noah & the Whale? (In fact I think it’s been about five years if not more since it came out.) This is where that song is now—in “Michigan 1997.”

These are definitely challenging times. We cannot deny that. It is fun to think back to when there was no Donald Trump or if there was he was up in Trump Tower. What was really important was friends and riding bikes by the lake. Now there is a morass of bad news and “big decisions”, debt, and the seemingly impossible. Just remember the wheel of time turns. Keep going, keep going.
an oldie, from 2007

Monday, July 8, 2019

Afternoon of a Faun

Afternoon of a Faun, book review
By James Lasdun
W.W. Norton & Company, 2019

The copyright says it all. It’s complicated. These times.

Making it even more difficult to unpack a complicated story. More like meta fiction, which ends with the assumed election of Hillary Clinton over her Republican opponent Donald Trump. The last scene in the novel is a living room gathering of friends watching the last debate together with cheers: “He’s going down!”

Who is HE, who are WE? The universe keeps expanding in a wave of self-incrimination. What part do we play, have played in the sequence of events leading up to now? I’m of course thinking of . . . children in cages, anti-Semitic attacks, the depths of despair raging over society, people thinking it’s okay to vandalize the Maggie Daley Cancer Survivor Wall, violence against women. Social media hate. The toxic mix making up the news of just this morning.

All of us contribute. You can read the culpability in Afternoon of a Faun. In this multi-layered novel we are reeled in by different facets of loyalty/identity/privilege. We sympathize with the abuser and the abused, with the victor and the loser. From a place of self-assured confidence that of course what seems rational, sensible will win out. That when it comes to justice there is a level playing field, a point we can all agree on.

Wait: is that the sound of the world blowing up?

In December 2017 The New Yorker published “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian that waded into murky territory. It went viral. Pretty much exactly down the middle—if you were a male you thought the female in the story led the guy on, wasn’t being honest, some said she was a tease. While most women who read the story understood exactly. It’s complicated.

Which probably explains why nobody is having sex these days. (Millennials in particular—are having “so little sex,” senior editor Kate Julian soberly framed the drop as a “sex recession.”) Which doesn’t mean that we’re over “rape culture,” it’s just that both men and women are having a hard time voicing what they really want.

Basically, no one wants to be a tool. We’re not talking romance, a Disney ending, happily ever after. Just where no one feels taken advantage of or hurt.

Afternoon of a Faun is about a journalist who about 40 years prior had sex with a woman. They were both mutually attracted to each other. It’s just that she asked him to stop and he didn’t. That says rape. Except that they remained close, for a while. In fact, after the incident, she stayed in bed next to him and left the next morning. So was it?

Now she’s writing a memoir and revives the memory. The narrator of the story is in the confidence of both parties involved and hears about it from both sides, casting him as somewhat their judge. On one hand he feels for Marco who can barely remember the moment, is successful, leading a full life—this accusation coming now would ruin his reputation. He believes it isn’t who he is. The woman, Julia, was at the top of her game in the 70s as a sought-after news journalist. After what happened her career faded. She’d had some unexpected turns, issues with her health (mental and physical), relationship problems—to the point of actually cutting some people off, and was now trying to resolve things the only way she knew how: by writing. Marco definitely has the upper hand. He has power and privilege and fights her by having lawyers cease and desist, trying to silence her. This is about who deserves to be heard.

As readers/observers we can feel on the hook. By choosing who to believe we stake political claim, personal identity, philosophical leanings. Can we be truly liberal and yet empathize with Marco? Even though Julia’s story/her behavior doesn’t make sense (How do we characterize a victim??) is she still believable? And, against the backdrop of this drama American history is playing out the Trump campaign/election. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ...

Afternoon of a Faun like its namesake ballet("Afternoon of THE Faun"), adapted from the poem by Mallarmé is about the limits of desire, the yin and yang of intimacy. We do not know how this story is going to end.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Work Up @ HunnyBee Lit

It's their first issue so let's give them some hits:

Revenge is a small (100-words) piece inspired by a dinner time conversation. I didn't exactly steal verbatim from the guest at the table, but this is the gist. Dietland was me.

Image result for dietland

Monday, July 1, 2019

Bike Trip: I & M Canal/Towpath Trail Joliet to almost Utica, 60 miles

Last week I got caught in the rain 4 times on my bike. Not normally a big deal, but Chicago has already had so much rain that I try to get out between showers. Sometimes it looks perfect and I think to myself, Stop being a slug. Get up and go downtown!, and literally ten minutes later it’s pouring. When people see me come in dripping wet they act like I’m so hardcore to ride in the rain. I want to tell them, No, I just need to get home and that’s how—on my bike.

So then there was this past weekend.

I wanted to take advantage of a weekend without rain in the forecast. OK, there was a 20% chance, but that’s 80% chance of NO rain. And it’s finally warmed up. The average June temp in Chicago this year was like the low 60s. So meteorologically it looked like the stars were aligning for a two-day ride and camp out.

I met a woman at the Bikes of Wrath movie (see link for review). It was a movie about bike touring and afterwards I came out to the parking lot to see someone looking at my bike. She was cute and little and said, I have a Torker too! So we talked bikes for a moment. Then I said, I need to start riding home, if you’re heading north let’s go together. She said she lived north. I said I lived in Uptown. So did she. I said I live by Sheridan and Wilson. She lived in the building behind mine. So after we made it home we exchanged details to ride together whenever convenient. So far we’ve managed a few local rides. So when I mentioned a bike camping weekend on the I & M Canal Trail she jumped on the idea.

Really it started great. I was so happy to be out on a trail, in nature, hearing birds, pedaling away. It was hot but manageable. We stopped every so often for snacks and to buy drinks. I’ve ridden the I & M many times. But I haven’t ridden to the end of it for many years. Possibly 4 years ago and I remembered that after Seneca it was a bit rough. We finally decided to take the road into Marseilles and Ottawa. It went from a wide track, to a single track, to an unmowed slice. Grades going down to railroad tracks were chunky gravel and washed out. It might have worked for a mountain bike without packs.

Outside of Ottawa is where things broke bad. Suddenly the heat was oppressive. Humidly made it feel like I was swimming in slow motion. We hit a long stretch of mud. More like sticky clay, which seized my back tire and I slammed to the ground, into a puddle. I had blood flowing from my elbow and tried pushing my bike forward as mud gummed up the brakes. As mosquitoes lighted on my arms and back, biting through my shirt. The mud was so deep and sticky my shoe sunk in and I had to suction it out. Step by step. Finally we made it to hiker/biker camping and I got a chance to use bug spray.

camping, so hot

close up of mud

The next day nothing was dry. I packed up a damp tent and put back on my wet clothes hung out on a line to dry. We went back through the mud and in Ottawa took about 20 minutes to wash bikes off with water bottles at a pump. It was already hot. By 20 miles I felt exhausted. After 30 I felt like I had asthma. I would pause after every miles breathing hard over my handlebars. I was drinking, but obviously not enough. Rian turned on her phone (we set them on airplane mode to save on power). In Ottawa in was 104 degrees! Where we were it was 94. No wonder I felt terrible! In Morris I bought a drink. I wasn’t at all hungry. Really, I needed air conditioning.

We kept going as we wanted to catch the train in Joliet. In the distance we heard thunder and the sky was blueing up. I knew there was a picnic shelter at McKinley Woods and struck out for it. The last few miles were stressful as the rain clouded up my sunglasses and there were puddles on the trail that freaked me out after already taking a tumble. We arrived just as the storm really hit.

The flashes of lightning were intense followed by immediate contusive thunder. The ground shook. My ears rang. At times I jumped up from sitting at a picnic table to clasp my hands in fear. The rain poured down.

A minute or two after we arrived another cyclist slipped in. So he was there for us screaming when the cracks of thunder startled us. He checked his phone and said it was all around us and extensive. So there goes that 80%. He called his wife and said, Bring the truck. He told us he lived just up the hill in a subdivision. As he ran out to catch his ride he called out to us: It’s supposed to start hailing. This will later feel like a parable for climate change.

Well, it didn’t hail, but, and it’s hard to believe, it rained harder. At times it was a white-out, as if we were sitting in a bowl of milk. The rain was that thick. Water poured down a hill and created its own gullies, it ran through the picnic shelter and continued on down to the canal. It flowed faster and the shelter began to fill up. It was at first just messy, then annoying, then we climbed up on the picnic tables. Water was everywhere around us, ankle deep, and swirling with speed.

At this point a phrase went through my mind: If I get out of here alive, I’ll be really glad.

It was no longer about the heat, staying dry—we were beyond all that. It was no longer about making the train. This was about making it out. The rain and water just wouldn’t stop.

There came a point where it did slack. Out in the parking lot were 3 hatchbacks. The drivers ran back to their cars from wherever they were waiting out the storm. I ran out to them to beg for a ride. One guy seemed willing to take Rian and I but not our bikes. We waded back into the shelter and got back on top of the table.

Here is where it’s important to have friends. I had enough battery left to make one phone call. I asked someone to drive down from Chicago to rescue us. No small feat on Pride Weekend. It took them 90 minutes and truthfully by the time they reached us the rain had stopped, we were still inundated and had to walk the bikes through standing water to reach them in the parking lot. We learned that it had rained 3 inches in 40 minutes.

But here’s the kicker: that guy who left us in rising water, he lived at the top of the hill, not in a subdivision as much as a gated community of mansions. This, my friends, is what climate change looks like. The rich will have an escape hatch. I’m just glad I had friends who came to my aid. We’re all going to need friends when the waters rise.

Friday, June 28, 2019

June 30, 1974 by James Schuyler

June 30, 1974for Jane and Joe Hazan
Let me tell you
that this weekend Sunday
morning in the country
fills my soul
with tranquil joy:
the dunes beyond
the pond beyond
the humps of bayberry –
my favorite shrub (today,
at least) – are
silent as a mountain
range: such a
subtle profile
against a sky that
goes from dawn
to blue. The roses
stir, the grapevine
at one end of the deck
shakes and turns
its youngest leaves
so they show pale
and flower-like.
A redwing blackbird
pecks at the grass;
another perches on a bush.
Another way, a millionaire’s
white chateau turns
its flank to catch
the risen sun. No
other houses, except
this charming one,
alive with paintings,
plants and quiet.
I haven’t said
a word. I like
to be alone
with friends. To get up
to this morning view
and eat poached eggs
and extra toast with
Tiptree Goosberry Preserve
(green) -and coffee,
milk, no sugar. Jane
said she heard
the freeze-dried kind
is healthier when
we went shopping
yesterday and she
and John bought
crude blue Persian plates.
How can coffee be
healthful? I mused
as sunny wind
streamed in the car
window driving home.
Home! How lucky to
have one, how arduous
to make this scene
of beauty for
your family and
friends. Friends!
How we must have
sounded, gossiping at
the dinner table
last night. Why, that
dinner table is
this breakfast table:
“The boy in trousers
is not the same boy
in no trousers,” who
said? Discontinuity
in all we see and are:
the same, yet change,
change, change. “Inez,
it’s good to see you.”
Here comes the cat, sedate,
that killed and brought
a goldfinch yesterday.
I’d like to go out
for a swim but
it’s a little cool
for that. Enough to
sit here drinking coffee,
writing, watching the clear
day ripen (such
a rainy June we had)
while Jane and Joe
sleep in their room
and John in his. I
think I’ll make more toast.

Submit your work=New Flash Fiction Review

Wanted to let my faithful readers, both of you, aware of an opportunity. New Flash Fiction Review is accepting submissions.

New Flash Fiction Review was founded in 2014 by Meg Pokrass. They are an online magazine devoted to flash fiction. They even have a feature called Micro Interviews.

New Flash Fiction Review hosts an annual award honoring a master short-short storyteller Anton Chekhov: The Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction--reading through July 15th.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bear With Me

I’ve posted here before about Kyle White, a hybrid poet fromWisconsin. I know this is already such a lame intro to someone who’s work I really appreciate. Sometimes too many words can ruin a moment meant to be sublime. That’s Kyle, he underwrites and leaves white space for the reader. His latest book:
Bear. With Me. {A Field Journal}

"bear. with me." is nine mysterious bear illustrations interwoven with a story of wonder, told through forty haiku:
"Follow rabbit trail. You meet Bear in a fur coat. You find Bear is you."

"bear. with me." is to be read slowly and in one sitting, out-of-doors.

I shared with him my chapbook: Bright Invisible about a week spent at Great Spruce Head Island in Maine. Through essays, journal entries, persona letters where I attempt to channel James Schuyler and experience the island through his eyes.
Bright Invisible: Words Sketches of Great Spruce Head Island
These are the kinds projects no one has a category for. Haikus about bears, persona letters about poets from The New York School (a thing that isn’t really a thing). It all hangs on such a thin thread. Either the work is so ordinary or so far out there that there that there is no audience for it.

I’m happy to be here.

Kyle, I can’t wait to dig into Bear With Me!

ALSO check out Winter is Scissors: Thirty-one, small, daily readings for Winter.

No photo description available.