Thursday, December 30, 2010

Found a good one

Check out this literary blog site!

Behind the Concession Stand - for teachers

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to Feel Your Own Bones

 How to Feel Your Own Bones

Somewhere below the surface of a January grave,
My history rests just fine until a man returned to lure me
 from the wood only to find he could not find my heart.

Finding bones instead, he laughed, 
gathered them into the night --- 
a filtered green tradition. 
Think poets and their everlasting labels.

The river man,
Earthen, viney and tough, he 
stole the bones of my history, 
but he did not steal my heart. 
How filtered you are, he whispered.

No one can reconstruct a heart 
from its history. Go and find my heart. 
When you return --- well, go and find 
what you will find.

Like time and bad weather, fear passes. 
Oranges are gathered. A hypnotic roll of tickets 
distributed and taken, tear themselves in half 
and flutter to the ground.

Rained upon, snowed under, bleached and buried.
 Graves turn. Blue stones erupt into gardens 
new laid. My heart lies somewhere. 
Here. On a page I cannot read.

He is a poet and has resurrected me 
in words cleverly edited to bones
and a twinkle.

See, the problem is he found my heart 
between sheets of white and has fallen in love 
with it there. Why not? It’s so clean 
and he can rest, as once I could rest.

No more. I haunt myself with itching
 and burials as scattered as the tickets
 the trees leave. No passage here.

Far away by now, he remembers fondly, 
profitably, everything love taught him.

The bastard.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And So, This Is Christmas

I love these little earrings. A cousin, who used to send the Knuckle generous Christmas boxes over the years, has shifted her tradition to my sister (J) and myself.  These glossy little snow guys came a couple of years ago and have not been bettered since. Subtle aquamarines, shiny glass pearls. Humor with a twist of sweet glam.

I certainly have no words of either wisdom or joy for this Christmas. I've been sort of slammed up against it, happy enough to be in town with some interesting work to do between quarters and a couple of shifts at the Hang 'n Fold. Phipps Plaza is d.e.a.d.  You know things are still bad when those who are shopping are cheering about the elbow room and great parking. That's not how it should be! (That said, the quiet shift did give me time to "check the sizing" on several items and head home with a new outfit.)

I'm frankly too dazed from the quarter to feel particularly artful. In fact, I've been working on the same batch of artomats for three weeks. They'll be over to Chapel Hill by New Year's but wow. One good thing about taking so much time though is that I'm too tired (burned out) to rush them, so I'm sort of lovingly painting up the sponge stamp and shellacing the text so that it's translucent. The pieces will be worth waiting for.

Roasted a big chicken tonight with success! The recipe is from I loved the lemon garlic herb stuffing (that's it, no bread). Lemon juices, garlic all mixed with the oil used to coat the root veggies. Nice.

Ok, well, Merry Christmas everyone. Get out those great earrings and socks.
Much love,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another place to drink coffee and tea

Condessa Coffee opened this week at the Tribute loftominium on Boulevard. It's on the path I walk along daily! I'm so happy. Not as good as being, say, across the street, but good. It's every urbanites wish to live within easy (five minutes) walking distance of a cafe or quart of milk. Condessa, though light on the eats, pours a nice cup and has plans for itself. Hopefully, that will include something interestingly Mexican in the pastry or sandwich department. The cafe looks out on Boulevard where a parade of sauntering homeless mix with area walker/runners. It also has a full view of the architect's widow's house on Blvd. and Cain. It's a house of mystery and speculation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm Not Alone Here, Either

During the last weeks of the semester/quarter, I give practice essay exams. This is especially important for the GPC students because they have to pass a Regents exam. To get a bead on the timing and to keep my own hand in (now that I'm "allowed" to write any way I want, I have to force myself to write as they must) I will occasionally write along with them.

Following the Regent's approved list of topics, I chose one about "a time you should have complained but did not."

     Sometimes I worry that I've become the invisible middle-aged woman --- neither attractive enough to capture attention or dangerous enough to set off warnings. My invisibility is making me neurotic. Instead of being annoyed and energized by it, I'm humbled to silence. Instead of complaining about poor customer service at a Phipps Plaza jewelry store (Ross-Simon), I was reduced to passive-aggression and, a week later, am still smarting. Had I complained I might have shrunk my neurosis, learned something of how the store operates and even awakened the sales clerk to their power.
    Do I look poor? My I dress up like a hooker's mother to shop at Phipps Plaza? Were my arty earrings too small? Had I forgotten to wear them at all? Was I wearing both?
    Last week I stood at the Pandora counter in Ross-Simons trying to see onto the stacked trays of silver and gold charms. I was there to shop for Christmas gifts for my sister and sister-in-law. To the side, about two feet from the counter, stood two sales associates discussing the previous day's crowd. "It was dead," said one. It was dead today, I thought. No one was at the Pandora counter with me. In fact, throughout the store there was more sales help than customers.
    I don't know why, but when the two associates continued to chat and ignore my obvious efforts to see the display, I grew irate. Rather than catch their attention, I played the counting game. How many seconds would pass before one of them sauntered over? One, two, three, four. The woman clerk left her co-worker, an older man in a suit who stared ahead as if captaining a ship---or a dining room.  Eight, nine, ten, eleven. I ticked the seconds off wondering if I was being fair and simultaneously growing more angry. At one point I may have hoped no one would help me. Then I would be justified in this feeling.  Twenty-one, 22, 23, 24, 25...How long a minute takes to pass.
     I looked at the gold, the silver, the braided leather. Oh, they have earrings and rings. Is this some version of Brighton after all? (that chased silver collectable I detest?) Is the whole Pandora idea hopelessly suburban?
     Sixty, 61, 62. A minute. How much longer will this take? By now I could not look up. I do not need to buy charms today and certainly not at Ross-Simons.
     At 90 seconds I gave it up. A minute and a half. Should I complain? Should I ask for help? I felt so irritated but with it embarrassed. It's only a minute and a half for Chrissake. Wondering why I hadn't simply looked up and captured attention (something I knew well enough how to do) I simply left.
     At the store where I  work, (also at Phipps) we are required to engage a customer immediately and then again twice more. Sometimes this just doesn't happen. If a woman is short, hard to see, we might miss her until she's penetrated the store. If both clerks are busy with others, we'll miss a greeting. But this is reasonably rare. Sometimes we're confronted by women after they've left. These return to complain, having clearly bubbled with the same sense of irritation and shame I described above. We are always shocked when this happens. We never mean to offend. We're nice people who believe it's more fun to help (and sell) than ignore customers.
     Is it possible the clerks at Ross-Simon just didn't see me? Or weren't responsible for Pandora sales? I could wonder why one didn't just let me know this or fetched the appropriate clerk, but having ignored customers myself for unavoidable reasons, it's likely I simply fell between the cracks of one clerk's attention span. Had I complained, they may have looked t me with the same wary sympathy we give our more neurotic shoppers.
     At the same time, whenever a customer does complain about how she's been treated (or feels she's been treated) I am alerted to my own power. Like any good recovering Catholic, I rake my conscience for how I could have offended and usually double my efforts to please.  I may spend more times at the front of the store or put down the endless folding and walk around rooting out the petites. At the register, I'll scan the entrance and wave or smile.  Had I complained at Ross-Simon, could the same "wake up" have occurred? I'll never know.

For my next trick, I'll get this down to five paragraphs....or not.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Everyone's a foodie blogger on Thanksgiving

A roll call of gratitude:

30-year fixed-interest mortgage
ability to pay it so far
good neighbors and friends, Faye and Bill. Here's to another year of early morning walks. Thanks for your patience when I just have to take another photo.
Donna and her family
Linda and the restoration of miracles
Sarah and the endurance of love
Evy, Bill, Clay and Johnny, Serey and Mike
Jean, Pat, the Soupers
Janeann and Steve, Deborah and David's ghost
AID and my newest career. Living proof that if I can't be a good example, there's value to being a horrible warning.
GPC and its hard-working student body. Thanks for holding those doors open, ladies and gentlemen.
Our neurotic customers at the Hanger and Fold - there are plenty of people with money to burn. Thanks for burning it with us. Now, go get yourself some real therapy.
Art and the way you make me feel...alive and in the moment.
The Particulars
Atlanta Printmakers
The birds in the trees, the wind, the roof over my head
my health
my Lexapro.
my trust Toyota.
...I could keep going.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kid in Candy Store

A shot captured in Belly, in Virginia-Highland. Great scones and olive-oil bagels that satisfy despite being as unlike a real bagel as possible and still be terrifically tasty. I hadn't been in since joining the ranks of the mighty 9%. The nice, worn communal table remains but the store has turned teenager (to paraphrase from a favorite poem) in an old-fashioned way. Maybe it's the luck of the light or ghosts of Fleeman's Drugstore, but this little patch of intown Atlanta has a sweetness not related to its goods sold.

A few weeks ago, after lunch at Super Pan Latino (disappointing, but I have only myself to blame for risking a "pig's head" sandwich)
pal Jen and I strolled back to her house and were caught by Belly's facade. Jen's got a thing for those Maryjane candies while I recall the giant orange circus peanuts with fondness. What else? Boston baked beans, chikstiks, those peanut butter and slivered sugar candies. Oh, it was worth the stop and nothing like a jawbreaker to wipe the taste of pig head off the tongue.

These huge jars filled with candy sit mid-store. There are more on benches in front and behind and even more ranged along waist height and in the shabby chic cabinets. In fact, I had to look hard for any gourmet savories before spotting some oils and coffees. 
Still, it's a friendly place for sitting and who doesn't miss penny candy? 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life Off the Grid - Angleslide

Independent contract worker
Adjunct instructor
Not exactly starving artist
Good example
Horrible warning

I used to call a change in point of view "angleslide"

I will again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Off the Grid - so much work, so few jobs

Am now fairly well convinced that there's plenty of work out there, even for rapidly aging boomers, but there are no jobs. Jobs, after all, come with expenses. Employers must pay insurance, workers comp, overhead, attaboys, training, all that Xeroxing. Work is free!

I'll be teaching a full load this Fall. Three classes at the Art Institute in Decatur and one (I hope) at Georgia Perimeter. It's amazing how we come full circle. In fact, I wonder why I ever left home. I started my college career at a community college about as unprepared for the collegiate experience as anyone else who had drifted through high school with little focus beyond the desire to "be cool."

Like the people I'll be working with, I made my share of inadvertent bad choices, went for the easy path, got distracted by emotions I couldn't put names to and sucked into the role of daughter of an anxious narcissist.  But I wrote my way through it and while I wasn't much of a writer and kept just a small diary, the daily exercise kept me grounded in myself. It wasn't much, but it was something.

What I hope to share with the GPC students is that community college is as good a start as any. We all start somewhere after all. Like those at Ashford and even AIA-D, these students come with burdens that won't be shucked off just because they've completed the paperwork, bought themselves new pens and managed to find the right building. Nothing leaves our head for long. The point is to make use of what we've done and learn how to think without letting emotions get in the way. To learn how to distinguish between an opinion and a heartfelt belief.

All of which is to say I'm going to be hugely busy this fall. Not sure I'll have the time I'd like for this forum, or the time to finish posting Dangerous Book. I'll do my best.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Off the Grid - 3, many jobs now?

For a person with no job, I've been very busy working at my assorted part-time jobs this summer.
The good news is my new (ish)  respect for the working poor and everyone else who pushes a rock up a hill every day. I guess I didn't need those illusions after all.

As the Knuckle used to say, "Be glad you're not working in a factory." True enough, though grading papers for the online college can often feel that way. With any piece-work kind of job, the urge to get the work done quickly and so earn more money, must be balanced against the artist's desire to do the job well, i.e., to make each piece unique. I do feel that compulsion while reading the majority of the autobiographies I'm paid to read. But I also feel the impulse to get the job done and so have at times turned my own office into a factory where I am strapped to a chair for ten hours, fingers on the keyboard and mouse, cutting and pasting comments with my heart and mind elsewhere. I rise from this dizzy and subdued, but I rise earlier than on the days when I know what I've written to every student...and this, of course, is the reason.

How often do we turn ourselves into slaves? The antidote for me, as far as this particular gig goes, is to pay attention to the lives I'm privileged to read. True, most people are not very articulate about their histories, but given the limited number of stories, there are plenty who tell the half dozen variations well enough to give a clear picture. For the rest, I rely on sheer volume. Our online schools are filled with people who don't know where the commas go, couldn't identify a conjunction and have more use but less reason for the conditional tense than is necessary.  A year ago I didn't know why this was so. Now I do.  They were absent the day those lessons were taught. In the essays I read, I discovered what they were doing.

stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mission Accomplished: The Hand to Hand Project

I was a much younger woman when the Iraq War started. I had a mother, a brother, a job. I didn't like my job so I moved on and on and on again. I bought a new car. My brother died. My mother died. I began walking.  I walked 60 miles. Twice. I developed my art. I wrote a novel. Students I teach now at the Art Institute and in Ashford U's online writing center were children. Now they are veterans. The war continued. The war continues. 

In 2003, Atlanta artist Cecelia Kane began her response to the war in a very deliberate, meditative way. Like the beads she'd grown up counting, she counted days, marking each one with a drawing and an inscription on a white glove. Gloves, she'd learned from a day clearing and packing away her late mother's handbags and gloves, retain the shape of their inhabitant. 

In 2006, with the war showing no signs of ending but reaching a breaking point, Cecelia opened her counting to include other artists. A project, Hand to Hand, began and continued. And continues.
With the removal of combat troops in Iraq, the project is now coming to an end. Mission accomplished? Well, the title was always facetious.

The project, along with two others, is on exhibit in Athens at ATHICA. It is, in the words of one participant, "stunning and humbling."  See here:

Statement for the catalog
June 28-July 4, 2009

I was both flattered and intimidated when Cecilia invited me to participate in this project.  Like most Americans, my early, more emotional reaction to the war in Iraq has been dulled by time and more immediate and personal events. In a way, the news stories published during the week I was assigned to follow, which included Independence Day, had a similar jaded quality. Stories of an Iraqi man’s evolution from poor worker to very wealthy entrepreneur (thanks to US government contracts) and VP Biden’s July 4th visit seemed quite dry. Because I’m a book artist, I stitched the gloves (which I’d imprinted with green vines and then dyed red) together in a kind of Coptic stitch, added a cover and proceeded to embellish with: a rabies vaccination tag from the VietNam era, the key to an American Tourister suitcase and several other bits. I smoothed lace-edged handkerchiefs given to me by my mother around the book’s cover. I simply needed to keep adding. Because I am also a writer, I printed most of each day’s headline on the front of the glove but added an ellipsis and forced the reader to turn the “page” to get the “last word” which I inscribed on the back. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 45

May 31 Monday continued

It’s been a long day. I’m here to say I spent a good bit of it with the Phoebe and Mrs. Moth. We stood outside Veronica’s hospital room, where she held to her life for a lot longer than the nurses seemed to think she would. Dr. Frobisher is a never-say-die kind of guy, as most physicians are, I suppose. Nurses are more pragmatic and not expected to save lives in the same way doctors a football.  
            “She stuck to her guns, I’ll give her that,” said Phoebe as I escorted her to my car.  Her remark struck me as callous, though absolutely true, but I was too tired to do more than nod and grin in the dark parking lot.  
            “Please don't think me rude, said Mrs. Moth, "But I’m so hungry. And I could use a little something from the bar."
            “I could make us some eggs,” I said.
            “Oh, let’s get Chinese," said Phoebe. "Chang's has a bar.”
            At the restaurant they both ordered saki martinis. Feeling like a fraud, I ordered a pot of hot tea which I fiddled with until Phoebe placed her hand on my arm.
            “I guess Peter’s ok,” I said.  “Will you call him?”
            “I called Eddie. He’ll take care of things.”
            “Eddie? Eddie Dowling?”
            “He’s very close to Veronica. He’s a good man.”
      Veronica, if I hadn’t shared this before, had been a social worker with the state. She had once told me, almost in passing, that crimes are always committed under passion. Some are committed by people who would never think to commit one. “They react to a single situation,” she said. “They react badly and are sorry ever after.”  I remembered this while waving for the waiter: She had been speaking of Eddie Dowling.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Off the Grid - Into Each Life Some Sun Must Shine

Nothing will pull you out of despair than the friendly handshake of a sale! Even better, a one-on-a-kind book I made from a pantoum written long ago when teaching creative writing has been purchased by The University of Denver's Penrose Library.

I'd sent the piece, in its little box, to my favorite book arts gallery, Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, for a show called "Interior Markings." A few days ago, Alicia Bailey, curator and owner, emailed me with the news!

That this news came during a time when I'd been feeling quite jerked around by a potential employer is just icing on the cake. The candles on the cake, I can share now, is the fact that the drawings in the book were done during a three-day series of tedious meetings. As a teacher of artists, I learned never to stop students from doodling in class. It is often their way of listening. To remove the pens from their hands or insist they take down my words was kin to hiding the windows.

Many thanks for John Thigpen for his wonderful photography.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Off the Grid - Avoid the Self Indulgence of Despair

When I hear nothing, I despair. When I hear the kind word from a random reader, I am grateful and embarrassed. When a friend calls wanting to buy art, and she's bought so much already, I am heart held.

I will miss Daniel Schorr, and I am not alone in that. Who will make sense of the week's disasters? He was the old professor, the parent who could and would explain. The voice of earnest sanity. Who can take his place?  Losing him is like losing a parent; there's no replacement. But we still need to hear a weekly analysis for without it, without rational thinking, we may well despair.

After voicing my small despair last week, I must follow it up with what always follows darkness: light. Cloudy, perhaps, but light nonetheless.

No, there is no rescue, but maybe that's for the best.
There is no reversal, no going back.

What is there?
For what?
Oh, for the ability to look around and see the arms of friends
outstretched. Their waving flutters, their high signs,
the communal hug.  We are all so worried
all so busy lugging our individual baskets of fret.
But see, we can each, when shifting the load, free up one hand
and waving speak:
Wait for me. Hold on. Kick a little harder. Walk a little longer.
Home is just around the corner.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Off the Grid - Week 65

With no full-time job, no benefits, a few weeks remaining on COBRA, an extension for unemployment I can't use because I now have three part-time jobs, I'm not sure if I'm off the grid or squashed against it like an unsuspecting insect.

Not an insect. A pin ball. We are all pin balls in a rough game played by a mindless child with a bad temper. I cower in the corner when no matter how hard the little wretch shakes the table, I don't shift. Not until his hand has slid from the lever, then, quiet and forlorn, I slide straight past and into the hole only to be jerked back into play the following Monday.

Like a thief sorry only that she's been caught, I want now the benefits of having had my own family without the eye-opening distress of actually having ripped my hips clear open and living with the results.

This year, when I've turned angry and emotions, spun like the arrow in a cheap board game, have landed on old friends and family, I've been silent here and in that silence seen my cowardice.

I am condemned. But I must not be silent.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 44

Things found in books:

*            date due slips
*            other slips of paper
*            homework assignments
*            sheets of toilet paper (clean, thank goodness)
*            Kleenex (clean and used)
*            library cards (we scan these into the computer to check out materials and the patrons are supposed to keep them!)
*            actual bookmarks
*            a surgical clamp
*            HAIR!
*            a bobby pin
*            a notification that someone had received a raise
*            an assortment of bills and letters
*            a season pass to Worlds and Oceans of Fun in Kansas City
*            a band-aid
*            a leaf
*            wedding pictures
*            other photos
*            the receipt from a visit for psychoanalysis
*            thank you cards
*            drivers licenses
*            a packet of tropical punch flavored Kool-Aid
*            a yellow 3-inch rubber snake
*            bird poop
*            raisins
*            creepy crawlies
*            a dry flower

What’s in the cookbook?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 43

Episode 43
Later, same Monday, May 31 -

I unlocked the door and the three of us, still knocking and calling entered the apartment and into the bedroom, following, I have to say, our noses.  We stopped calling when we saw her in the bed. She was doubled over as if she’d been retching.  Closer examination showed that she had.  Right near her face almost as if she was drowning in it a little pool of brown vomit rested.   Some of it had soaked into the sheets, but most had not.  The whole thing was gross and sad and disgustingly human.
            We stood around wringing our hands. I’d actually never done that before, but it almost seemed instinctive before we all jumped into 911 mode and called from the bedroom.  Mrs. Moth made the call, holding the receiver with both hands and turning her back on the bed, as if not wanting Veronica to hear her.  Phoebe fastened herself to Veronica and kept her hands chaffed. Was she dead? She was not.     
            “Get me a damp cloth,” said Phoebe.  “We can’t let her choke.”  I managed to comply.  “Then do something with the bathroom,” she snapped as if I’d messed the room myself.
            When I finished, I joined Mrs. Moth in the kitchen. She was busy pulling lime wedges from the sink basket, holding a high ball glass in her hand.
            “Was anyone here last night?” she asked.
            “Not after we left,” I said. “At least, I didn’t hear anyone, but when I finally came in I went right to bed.”
            The sink was littered with slices of lime.  Mrs. Moth threw them into a kitchen waste bin.  A fishy smell arose.  Probably unwashed tuna cans.
            On the counter I spied an open canister of tea and a tin box of brownies, still open. This explained the look of her vomit.  These Mrs. Moth was brushing up and putting away.  It is at these times that you take a mental inventory of your underwear.  Is it good enough for the ambulance?   Will you be embarrassed when you wake up in a hospital bed?
            “Phew” she said, lifting out the trash bag. Veronica used paper grocery bags to line her trash basket and this one was soggy.  “I don’t suppose you’d bring this down stairs for me,” she said.
            I opened the back door leaving it propped open so it wouldn’t lock behind me, ran down stairs to the dumpster.  By the time I returned the EMTs had arrived.  The guys bustled around Veronica, working her over, trying, with more good will than delicacy, to slap some life into her, or so it seemed to me   I think it was just the rush that made them seem so rough.
            They strapped her on the gurney and carried her down the stairs. Mrs. Moth, Phoebe and I followed behind in my car.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I remember

A very long time ago, I sat on the floor of a little house in Brookwood trying to impress my boyfriend's buddy that I was somehow smarter, prettier, more grounded, less rough around the edges than I was.
The boyfriend helped by having me leave my eyeglasses in the car and enjoy the evening playing Monopoly by instinct. This was a man I instinctively knew was not right for me. No, that's not how I thought it.  What I thought, when he questioned me on my background as if I were filing a job application or used the word  irregardless, which is not really a word, was that had I known him in college, when I still had a backbone, I wouldn't have given him the time of day. It was instinct and I ignored it.

I have no idea if his friend was impressed. Nothing that might have changed did change. The relationship, such as it was, ended with the sigh of a vacuum pulling from some small space the last of our complications. What did remain was the friend's quizzing eyes. These young alert men with their quizzing eyes and tallying understand them would be to give them power. I would not. But I cannot forget the look. Such a long time later I painted these eyes though until the little picture was finished I did not recognize them.

Here is the picture. Here is the memory. You really can't know which detail will stick, can you? Or how it will manifest.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 42

Monday May 31 - continued
Detective Robin wasn’t a large man, but he seemed to fill my living room. When invited, he took a seat on the couch, accepted the sweaty glass of tea and downed it in three healthy swallows. Fascinated, I watched his throat at work. When he finished he handed it to me and grinned.
            “I needed that.”
            “You sure did,” I said and tripped from the room to bring him a refill. When I returned he was busy playing with Juniper. I set the glass on a coaster and sat nervously at the end of the couch.
            “Juniper, come here,” I said, but my faithless mutt ignored me for the next half hour preferring, as usual, the company of a male.
            “Can you tell me if you heard anything unusual this morning?”
            “No. I mean, I can tell you I heard nothing unusual. In fact, it was pretty quiet. But it’s a holiday and I slept late.”
            “When did you wake up?”
            “Around 7, which is usual. On a work day, I’ll walk Juniper a bit, but this morning I just let her pee.”
            “Did you hear your neighbors?”
            “Professor Sergeant lives across the hall. I heard him leave around 8. Oh, and Noah, upstairs, went out around 7.”
            “When you were waking? Did he wake you up?”
            “I don’t think so, though he might have woken Juniper. She jumped on my bed at 7.”
            “I take it you looked at the clock?”
            “I did. Oh! That clock is set 10 minutes fast. So she woke me earlier. Then I went to the bathroom, then the kitchen to start my coffee and let Juniper out the back door. I heard Noah’s kitchen door open and his footsteps on the back stairs.”
            Robin rose and walked to the kitchen. I followed, showing him through the small screened porch. We listened to the sounds of police footsteps on the stairs.
            “It’s pretty audible,” I said.
            “Did you see your neighbor?”
            “No. I was busy with the coffee pot, but it sounded like him.”
            “Did you hear anything from Veronica’s apartment?”
            “No. But I usually don’t. She’s up earlier than me and leaves the front way when she goes out. But she wouldn’t be going to work today, either. It’s a holiday.”
            He nodded.
            “I’m not sure when I took Juniper out for a walk but when we got home Phoebe and Elizabeth were outside Veronica’s apartment, knocking and calling for her to open the door.
            “When I came in they leaned over and asked me if I’d seen her leave, which I hadn’t.”
            We walked back to the living room and I opened the door to my hall, showing Robin where I’d stood.
            “What did they say?”
            “They said they all had appointments at DCH (Druid City Hospital) and were supposed to go to the mall and where was she. Of course, I didn’t know but I looked under the radiator for her spare key, found it and went up and unlocked her front door.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We are not fiction

Are we all living our own romance? Our own hero's journey?
On which hot afternoon, perhaps while stepping off a broken curb, does my fortune change and doom shift roles with fate or, dare I say it, destiny?

At night the helpful gnome enters stage left with the brilliant observation
I've been waiting for and I reply yes.
I say YES and proceed to make my fortune
with tools honed subconsciously all these years.

Rip van Winkle never lay beneath a tree
but worked instead in a grey felt cubicle
until the day he woke ready
for a new haircut and an eyeful
of change.

A shift in point of view is all the waking I require.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Words, like oil, spread across our ether seas. Are we hearing it yet?

Behold our dark, magnificent horror

Friday, June 4, 2010
There is, you have to admit, a sort of savage grace, a tragic and terrible beauty, to the BP oil spill.
Like any good apocalyptic vision of self-wrought hell, the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history has its inherent poetry. You see that creeping ooze of black, that ungodly wall of unstoppable darkness as it slowly, inexorably invades the relatively healthy, pristine waters adjacent, and you can't help but appreciate the brutal majesty, the fantastic, reeking horror of this new manifestation of black death we have brought upon ourselves, as it spreads like a fast cancer into the liquid womb of Mother Nature herself.
Really, it's not just the incredible photographs of the spill that are, in turns, heartbreaking, stunning, otherworldly and downright Satanic in their abject revulsion. It's not just the statistics that tell us how many millions of gallons might ultimately be spilled, or the stunned scientists who can only hypothesize how this unprecedented catastrophe might affect the fragile food chain and distress the ocean's ecosystems at the very root level.
It's not even the endless, heartrending tales of livelihoods lost, industries destroyed, coastlines ravaged or wildlife killed. The fact is, any one of these aspects alone is enough to poison your soul for as long as you wish to wallow in that murky state of fatalism and doom. It is nothing but bleak.
I think the most disturbingly satisfying thrill of this entire event -- and it is, in a way, a perverse thrill -- comes from understanding, at a very core level, our shared responsibility, our co-creation of the foul demon currently unleashed.
What a thing we have created. What an extraordinary horror our rapacious need for cheap, endless energy hath unleashed; it's a monster of a scale and proportion we can barely even fathom.
Because if you're honest, no matter where you stand, no matter your politics, religion, income or mode of transport, you see this beast of creeping death and you understand: That is us. The spill may be many things, but more than anything else it is a giant, horrifying mirror.
Do you wish to try and deflect it? Lay responsibility elsewhere? Really? We can't quite blame an "act of God," as we would for some sort of hurricane or tsunami inflicted upon meager humankind by an angry deity, punishing us all for being too war-like, violent or perhaps naïve enough to want to enjoy the sunshine for five goddamn minutes before He decided He'd better kill some people lest we forget who's in charge.
We cannot blame evil terrorists, some cluster of swarthy foreigners who hate our shopping malls and secretly envy our Porsche Cayenne's. Nor can we blame the spill on some sort of nefarious conspiracy, a secret act wrought by devious agents in black helicopters designed to destabilize the U.N. and induce universal mind control -- unless, of course, you're getting a little desperate and don't get outside much, in which case, you absolutely can.
Finally (and a bit shockingly), I'm not hearing Pat Robertson or any of his cretinous cult of apocalypticans blame the gays, or voodoo, or anal sex, or reality TV for what's happening in the Gulf. Oil is, after all, completely non-denominational. It mocks all religions equally -- except, of course, the only one that really matters: capitalism.
This is how you know this is one of the more universally damning disasters of our time: No one really seems to know how to process it, much less react. The GOP is backpeddling like terrified hyenas from Sarah "Queen of Duh" Palin's "drill baby, drill" mantra/ass tattoo, as suddenly the incessant Republican wail for more oil exploration, more drilling, more tax cuts for oil conglomerates don't just reek of the usual inbred cronyism; they reek of death and destruction the likes of which the country has never seen.
On the other hand, hardcore lefties are going mad with desire that the disaster will lead to the immediate imprisonment of every BP employee worldwide, as if BP is somehow any different than any other oil titan raping the planet right now (hi, Alberta's oilsands). Hardcore lefties would also appreciate it if Obama would use the disaster as a surefire excuse to instantly change the entire course of energy history by immediately shutting down all 48,000 oil wells in the Gulf and hand every American a bicycle and a solar panel. See? All better.
Sure. As if oil wasn't woven like oxygen into every single aspect of American life, as if fully 30 percent of domestic transportation fuel didn't come from the gulf, as if shutting down a fraction of those wells wouldn't re-devastate the economy, as if petroleum and coal weren't powering the very energy plants that deliver the electricity that charges the iPhones that allows everyone to Tweet their angry complaints through all the various energy-sucking server farms the size of a small country.
Truly, BP is behaving no better or worse than any other corporate spawn of Satan would in a similar situation. What's more, if you don't think every oil company on earth is right now kneeling before Beelzebub in gratitude that it wasn't one of their own wells that exploded, you haven't been paying attention.
That said, after all is said and done, it's gloomily nice to think our darkest disaster in a generation could somehow ultimately improve our attitudes, change our behavior, lighten our violent treatment of the planet. As someone recently noted, the BP spill isn't Obama's Katrina, it's actually Big Oil's Chernobyl. Meaning: a disaster so appalling and devastating it might very well alter the industry and change the course of our energy policy forever.
Is it possible? Or, more accurately, are we even capable of such a shift? Is there any silver lining to be found in that black and greasy gloom? This is, perhaps, the most imperative question of all: If we can produce a demon of such extraordinary scale and devastation, can we not also somehow create its exact opposite? Let us pray.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fighting Invaders

F. fights the weed, the invader that, fast as a virus, wrapped its tentacles through one well-propped fledgling forsythia. We don't know its name but it has insinuated itself, taken over the clever teepee and become entangled with its host. F. would not leave the plant to struggle, losing breath or ground. Instead, she bent and fingered loose the encroaching vine, tearing it, demolishing it, refusing it a single inch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Art at the Beginning - The Beltline Begins

The Atlanta Beltline is about the coolest project since the '96 Olympics. Cooler because it reuses abandoned railroad tracks, linking neighborhoods around the city in a way the ever-hideous 285 could never do. Since its conception (Ga. Tech architectural student's thesis), I've looking forward to its coming, and like most people fretted that its completion would take so long, I'd be an old lady before I could enjoy it or the benefits we're all greedily sure it will bring our properties.

But last week, the beginnings of the first trails, rough as they are, were opened, marked with art installations. My walking buddy and I visited a section in Old Fourth Ward.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Incredible Edible Mile

So far this season, we have spotted a gorgeous fig tree on Krog, a hawthorn and mulberry on JW Dobbs and this week a half dozen squash plants growing strong behind the metal DOT fencing along Baker-Highland. It's this spot where said DOT has also planted a series of jasmine plants, which F and I are trying feebly to coax toward the chain link fence behind them. We seem to adopted our own patch in downtown.
I do hope no one swipes or destroys the squash until I can pick one!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Foraging on the freedom trail

What we thought was a crabapple tree on the yard surrounding the J.W. Dobbs house turns out to be a hawthorn.

These are delicious! I released a handful and ate them (because F. had spoken earlier to an urban forager who assured her they were fine. This didn't convince her to eat them, but i have no allergies or qualms, or brains.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Scent Must Be Described in Metaphor

We pass a pair of juicy gardenias while walking to and fro on the morning walk. They've grown to crowd the small enclosure between an unused front door and its railing fence in a townhouse complex where the community life, and I'm only assuming there is one, exists within.  The gardenia's scent is strongest as its flower dies. Sweet and rot mingled.

The sense of smell, I understand, is the one that must be shared with metaphor. We can't describe a scent, smell, odor, fragrance any other way. This has to do with the ephemeral or abstract, even subjective nature of scent.

So when I share the close-up image of a gardenia, all I can really offer is this:
evening anticipation mingled with dread
and the hours before sweat, vomit and
unplanned pregnancy.

Possible nostalgia?
As if that long-dead grandmother
watched with a smile
slid her still slender fingers
up and down the curtain's pleats.
The sheers, not the drapes.
The drapes smell of dust.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Illustrated Journal Workshop

Last week I took a much needed workshop in composing and simplifying plein air sketches taught by Marilyn Brandenburger at the Spruill Arts Center. We started with simple sketches of a radish (one each) then moved on to packing our outdoor kits and roaming the area immediately outside the art center. On Sunday we worked from photographs. I'm always taking pictures of things and places I think would make nice pages but ... then I post them here!

Following Marilyn's simple instructions, I learned how to break the view into it large shapes, sketch them out and then fill in with ink and watercolor. Here are a couple of the books on sketchbooks and journals I like. There are more and more out everyday.

and here are some of the sketches I did. So hard to be need when I'm used to being a wild child.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weathervane: Four Artist, Four Directions

One of the important promises I made to myself last year was that, if nothing else, I would say yes to art. What this meant was simple: say yes to requests for work from the organizations I'm in, from the ones I want to be in, from ads sent by friends and from those found stumbling on the web. It's how I got one big piece finished and sent off to now four shows and a website. It's the same piece found (like a story in a slush pile) and included in a book on innovative printmaking.

I also decided to get my work into shows in Atlanta, even if that meant putting on the show myself, which I did. Not a solo show, but one shared with three friends and fellow artists. But I was the point girl, the one who got the space and the time and who brought it all together. I had a blast. This was helped by the fact that my fellow artists, Serey Andree, Ande Cook (see Chickory under Inspired By) and Ralph Barnes, were all equally eager to create new work and present it without a lot of ego nonsense and fuss.

Thanks to Chera Baugh at the Atlanta Public Library and Ande's good reputation in organizing an earlier show in 2007, we got a month on the calendar and an opening reception that coincided with downtown's First Thursdays.

Despite my need and desire for a full-time job, putting together this show was a perfect example of doing real work I love. Hopefully, the money will follow. I did sell one piece (Thanks, Casey) and maybe more. We take down the show on the 27th. If you're in Atlanta, please visit the central branch of the Atlanta Public Library. The gallery space is really interesting (in a good way.)

Dangerous Book - Episode 41

And now there are lots of cops, most polite.  That’s not what I mean.  Most are like real people with families that I would know.  The large one is an in-law to a secretary in the department.  Another I recognize as a member of the church next door, on whose property we sit.  Unlike what might have been my imaginings, these men and the one woman humping up and down our stairs have not appeared from another planet.  The woman, in fact, I’ve seen on my walks with Juniper.  She has family at Evergreen.

All day, up and down in their heavy shoes, asking, once, to use my phone.  The lady copy even used my bathroom and cadged a tampon.  I find this sort of breach very disarming.  I moved the phone from my bedroom to the hall and let the cops stand there with nothing to write on but the wall.  I hovered, lowering the radio to hear them, but they mumbled into the mouthpiece.
Peter is upstairs with more detectives right now.  I have given statements but will soon give another to yet another detective, a man about my age who would appear to be in charge. Guess you’d like to know what happened. Veronica is dead.

 The detective (lieutenant?) is of medium height, trim and faintly square, green eyes, black lashes, and thick brows that threaten to grow together above a small, elegant nose. A lovely neck.  His name is Wake Robin and he does not fit in with the other cops who are, despite their familiarity, are far more rigid and tightly uniformed.  Detective Robin stood at the entrance to my apartment in clothes and a haircut he didn’t get in Tuscaloosa, shook my hand without leaving a scar and escorted me upstairs.  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 40

Sunday, May 30 continued

We all in our various degrees leaned or ran or stretched a hapless arm toward the three women but only Peter’s legs actually moved and them so fast it was as if he flew. Almost before the mallet shattered inches from her, he was at Lura’s side covering her with a gesture of such protective love I think it took us all, them most of all, by surprise, for when Peter finally released her, Lura looked straight at me and shook her head. Her eyes were sad above her smiling mouth.
            I looked to Peter, to Kate, to Jacob but no one saw me.  Suddenly, Professor Sargeant’s arm was around me.  But I’ve never had the capacity for accepting sympathy.  My way is to petrify into a stoicism unbreakable, untouchable, oh, until much later.  You can read these words as tears, but I’m not crying yet.  Still, I was grateful to my neighbor.
            So, he loved her after all. So, no one told me.  So.  Well.  Is there a law that says they must.  “We wanted to,” said Kate, much much later, for the evening did not end with Peter and Lura.  “We tried to.  I wish I had.”  Yeah, now.

  Monday, May 31
             I thought I had a boyfriend and I thought I had friends, new friends.   Maybe I didn’t know everything there was to know about them, but what I didn’t see was that through this brief season another drama was playing out, and that all these people were living it—Billie and Allen and Kate and especially Jacob, who was so angry at Peter. 
            Peter’s friends were seeing him and Lura and his behavior toward her and how his behavior toward me. That’s why Jacob was so angry and that’s why he threw the croquet mallet. He meant to hit Peter, he almost hit Lura. Instead, his mallet crashing woke us all.  
Peter doesn’t love me.  And maybe I don’t love him, but right up to that minute I was living another life.  I was thinking…well, you know what I was thinking.
            How quiet the complex is, the way Tuscaloosa feels after a home game when the Winnabagos and SUVs have gone, before the litter has been shoveled into a landfill and the bourbon-scented vomit washed from the bleachers.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Impressed

Quite a few months ago I received an email from a stranger in Berlin who said he admired my work. He (or maybe she) wanted to see some jpgs for inclusion in a book. Frankly, I thought it was spam and ignored it. But Hennig persisted and, after checking out the Gestalen website, I complied with some wonderful images shot by John Thigpen, a friend and meticulous set designer. The images were accepted and I forgot about the book. What a thrill to receive another email from Henni requesting my street address so he could mail me the finished book.

I'll be getting mine in the mail soon. You can get yours on!
The images selected were all from  How to Distinguish Scents, a labor of love that has proved to me that what you put your whole heart and focus (might that be soul?) into, will be worthy. Of course, Johnny's images are, I believe, equally responsible for this particular book's success. I've used the jpgs for Scents and several other books we photographed for inclusion into at least three other shows. Lesson two, therefore, do the best afterwork for your art lest it languish. This includes the best photography you can afford and then sending the piece out into the world to the galleries and shows that will appreciate it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Gallery

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 39

We set up a drinks table near Billie and Allan’s and put out chairs and sofa pillows.  Even Phoebe and Veronica were invited to join, which they did, from lawn chairs near the stairs. 
When it was all over, Kate and I pieced the evening together  me pretending to her that I do not feel like a total fool just because all my friends had known what I did not and had watched, curious, worried, entertained?

There were about nine or ten of us playing two games at once. Players with primary colors (red, blue, yellow) headed north. Secondary colors (orange, green, black) went south.  Each team took its own turns, meeting in the middle. Once the teams intersected, one could croquet and send the other team’s balls as well as our own.  We could poison players on both teams, as well.  Peter, on the primary team  reached the end pole first and was itching for poison. He had two free shots to reach it.  Jacob  and the rest of us were out to stop him.  When Jacob took turn,  he interrupted Peter’s free shots, which enabled him to croquet Peter before he could move safely away. The mix-up arose, according to Kate, because Peter took so long between his two free shots that Jacob could be forgiven for thinking his own turn had come.  What I saw from my angle, about three feet behind Peter and facing Jacob, was Jacob hurrying to croquet Peter.  But what Kate saw, from a distance than included both men, was Peter stalling and letting Jacob think his turn was up.  One cheats because the other eggs him to do it.  They’d muttered words several times this summer but never came to shouting.  When Peter accused him of cheating, Jacob got right in his face.
“Don’t fuck with me.”  Very dirty Harry.
“Play the ball,” said Peter, shaking his head in disgust.  As if he were the better sport.  “Just play the ball.”
“Don’t fuck with me.”
“Play the ball.”
Back and forth back and forth.  But Jacob, and this may tell us something, played his shot very badly, as he does when he’s being dubious about play and got so mad he threw the mallet towards the verandah where it rolled head over heels --- a pretty sight--- until it hit the steps where Phoebe, Veronica and Lura were sitting in a group. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just finished reading...

Isn't the best thing when you discover a new-to-you writer who has been publishing for years? It means you've three, four, a dozen books to anticipate reading.

I've been reading Laurie King's Mary Russell novels and was all caught up when I discovered her Kate Martinelli series, starting with The Art of Detection or maybe, To Play the Fool. I'm not sure of the order, and it doesn't matter. I like filling in a character's timeline in a random order.

More recently, King's stand-alone suspense novels have found me. Last week, I started Folly and for a day or so was unsure I'd "get into it."  Fortunately, I realized the problem was my own distracted, shallowness of attention.

Folly turns out to be a synchronous gift to of the sub-stories is about a WWI soldier suffering from shell shock. As it happens, an artist book I'm working on contains the ephemera of a young man's disappearance and his stepmother's search for him between 1922 and 1927. King's story has inspired my own appropriation.  Thanks!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Salome Dawn

After a nice couple of rain showers yesterday and some lingering moisture, this morning's dawn didn't so much rise as gather itself from behind many veils, as if waking were a secret.

A cool silky hour with a sun masquerading as moon:

And the Peachtree Plaza annointed by same (and about an hour later.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 38

Sunday,  May 30  - hot
This morning I helped Veronica hang curtains.  She’d bought a set of lined cotton panels (beige and Wedgwood blue) from Prof. S. and was trying to hang them in the living room where they worked well enough with her brown braided rug but fought against the rest of her color scheme, if scheme was what it was. She owns a Crayola green couch, which she’d spiffed up with cherry red and lemon pillows; behind it hangs a Grandma Moses print. A maple wood side chair under a reading lamp would have held its own but was hampered by maroon plush seat and back. Its arms were wide enough to hold the generations of water circles and cigarette burns that marked it as someone else’s cast-off. Veronica, I suspect, is a dumpster diver.
            “Well,” I said, “They’re lovely curtains.”
            “Uh huh.”
She was determined to hang them in the living room no matter what the effect.  At first I thought I’d been invited up to convince her they would look good, but of course they wouldn’t and no amount of discussion would make them. Yet, she craved discussion.
            And that was it, of course. I was going to be here indefinitely, dancing with her through a faux discussion of where to hang these stupid drapes.  
             Finally, she called a friend and told her to come over; she needed a third opinion. Then she produced a cup of lukewarm instant coffee and a burnt muffin from a Christmas tin suggesting we settle in to read the paper until Betty arrived.  Half a long hour later Betty Sheffield appeared holding a shopping bag and they embraced. 
            According to Betty and Veronica, they haven’t seen each other in four years, ever since Betty moved from Monnish Court.  It took Betty slightly less than thirty seconds to agree on the bedroom for the beige curtains and even less to dissuade V. from trying to hang them right now.  V. murmured something about Noah Williams across the hall.
            “I always think jobs involving hammers are for men,” said Betty.
            So all three of us moved to the green couch where they talked about men and I drank more lukewarm coffee. I would have left, but Betty gave me the eye, so I stayed. And stayed.            
            Betty has just ended a relationship and feels ambivalent. “Too many sleepless nights,” she said.  “He was aging me.” 
             “Too much sex?” I wondered.
            “He was a boozer! I was tired of worrying about him.”
              “Well, you can’t miss that,” said Veronica, but Betty sighed and smiled.
             “He made me laugh,” she said. “He was funny.”
And then I knew this was the thing that kept her up at nights, for to be kept laughing by a man, even one who drinks too much, is not something relinquished easily. 
            Veronica shared a story about a man named Martin Frobisher she dumped last year.  He gave her a lot of presents she still has, pointing vaguely around the room.
            “But they were so practical,” she said, slapping her bare knees.  And oh, how he had nursed her when she had the diarrhea.  But in the end he just wouldn’t leave her alone. 
            “I like my own space,” she said.
              Finally, she introduced him to a widow friend and they’ve been married four months.  I liked this part.  It’s clever, yet smacks of good intentions and economy.
             “Yes,” she said.  But why, she wanted to know, did she follow it up with a two-week depression.
            “Maybe because he shouldn’t have been so easy to unload,” I suggested.
We warmed the couch for another half-hour.  Pleasant enough but still confusing.  Veronica clearly wanted some attention from the girls.  Wanted to sit between us on the couch and giggle.  Wanted her mind made up for her, to share in her re-nesting. But why invite me?  I’ve snubbed her regularly for six months.  And Betty, who hasn’t been here in four years, yet evidently dropped her Sunday morning ritual to help her.   
            Before we escaped, Veronica asked if she wanted a linen jacket.  Betty works part-time in a boutique and had, also at Veronica’s request, brought one over.
            She strutted across the living room in a violent pink, which suited her, thrusting her hands in the jacket’s deep pockets, removing a white bandana handkerchief from one.
            “That’s from me,” said Betty. “I don’t think a girl can have too many bandanas.” Agreeing, Veronica walked the handkerchief into the dining room where she left it on the table there. Turning back, she stood with her legs stick straight and looked so much as she must have fifty years earlier, eager and open, that we both smiled.
            “You haven’t aged a minute,” said Betty with real fondness in her voice.
            “Linen wrinkles just looking at it, I said, suggesting raw silk. Veronica, disappointed, finally handed the jacket back to Betty.
            “I’ve got something for you, too,” she said and handed me an old cookbook published by the Tuscaloosa Junior League in 1959. “You can use my recipes if you like. And Elizabeth and Phoebe have several in there as well.”
            The cookbook was well worn and liberally stained. Other recipes, cut from newspapers and magazines threatened to spill out. I took it in both hands. I love old books and diaries. Who knows what I’d find inside?